Richie Leahy's injury-time point fired Kilkenny to a thrilling 2-22 to 2-21 victory over arch rivals Tipperary at sun-kissed Nowlan Park.
With 10,587 in attendance, there was no sign yet of the Beast from the East as the Cats led by the odd point from 25 at the end of an entertaining first half, with TJ Reid delivering a masterclass for the home team, registering nine times before the interval.
Under-strength Tipp had made a decent start and the magnificent Michael Breen's excellent point following great play from Niall O'Meara had them two up after nine minutes, 0-5 to 0-3. Reid replied with a trademark low-trajectory finish from a free before tying the scores up with his fourth score of the afternoon, 0-5 apiece.
Pat Lyng edged the Cats ahead with a terrific score but Patrick Bonner Maher replied before Brendan Maher restored the Premier lead with an excellent strike from distance. However, a Reid brace - one from play and one free - fired the Black & Amber back in front, although Maher soon made it eight apiece.
Reid's seventh (free) and eighth points of the game edged Brian Cody's men two ahead after 23 minutes. Breen stroked over a Tipp free but it was soon a three-point game as wing back Conor Browne and Reid (free) increased the hosts' tally.
Liam Blanchfield cancelled out a Breen free and another Breen free had the visitors back within two with 32 minutes played. An excellent Breen point from play closed the first-half scoring as the teams retired with the minimum between them.
Two goals in as many minutes at the start of the second half had the Cats seven ahead: first, Walter Walsh turned the Tipp full back and breezed through the defence to plant the sliothar in the net before Luke Scanlon made it 2-13 to 0-12.
But Tipp retorted determinedly as Breen kicked to the home net in the 45th minute. Two minutes later, Reid surprisingly drilled a Kilkenny penalty over the bar to leave five between the teams and the Premier took advantage of that miss when Breen flew in to smash an unstoppable bullet to the net for his second three-pointer. Richie Leahy steadied the Cats with a nice point - 2-15 to 2-12.
Tipp edged closer again and Cian Darcy, substitute Mark Russell, Billy McCarthy and Breen (free) were all on target as they landed five without reply to lead by two. Reid and Breen exchanged frees as we went into the last 15 minutes but sub Leahy pulled one back as the Noresiders refused to give up…
Richie Reid equalised within seconds of entering the fray and Ronan Maher did likewise from a majestic sideline cut after the latest TJ Reid free had the Cats one up. As we moved towards a dramatic finale, Reid's free made it 2-20 to 2-19 with 65 minutes played.
Alan Murphy doubled the difference but the outstanding Brendan Maher made it a one-point game again with a minute of normal time left and Breen tied the scores up again on the stroke of full time, bringing his total to 2-9. An excellent Reid gather from the puck-out resulted in the lead point from Leahy and that proved to be the winning score.
Kilkenny - D Brennan; E Morrissey, J Holden, P Deegan; C O'Shea, C Buckley, C Browne (0-1); J Maher (0-1), L Blanchfield (0-1); M Keoghan, TJ Reid (0-13, 7f), P Lyng (0-1); R Leahy (0-3), W Walsh (1-0), L Scanlon (1-0). Subs: A Murphy (0-1) for L Blanchfield, L Ryan for P Lyng, R Reid (0-1) for M Keoghan, C Martin for L Scanlon.
Tipperary - D Mooney; A Flynn, T Hamill, S O'Brien; S Kennedy, J Barry, D Maher; B Maher (0-4), R Maher (0-1); S Curran (0-1), B McCarthy (0-1), Patrick Maher (0-1); G Browne, M Breen (2-9, 0-7f), N O'Meara (0-2). Subs: M Russell (0-1) for G Browne, C Darcy (0-1) for N O'Meara.
Referee - A Kelly.