Any propects of an unlikely late promotion bid were firmly put to bed in Pairc Tailteann as Cork plunged Meath into further relegation worries with a 2-16 to 1-15 win this afternoon.
Playing into the teeth of the strong wind Meath were pegged back early on with Colm O'Neill striking the upright from a free before Donal Lenihan was denied a clear free and Cork countered to open the scoring through Sean White.
Graham Reilly used the woodwork to steer the ball over the bar for an equaliser, but Cork continued to dominate and raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead with Mark Collins, John O'Rourke and O'Neill all on target.
A foul on the dangerous Reilly gifted Lenihan a tap over free, but in the 12th minute Meath were dealth a blow when no one tracked Sean White's run from midfield and he played in O'Neill who's shot was parried into the path of O'Rourke who palmed the ball to the net for a 1-4 to 0-2 lead.
Meath's response to the concession of the goal was impressive. Lenihan was denied what looked like a clear penalty, but he was eventually awarded a free which Ben Brennan blasted over the bar.
Another foul, this time on Brennan, gifted Lenihan a simple point from a free before a brilliant turnover by Bryan Menton laid on a score for Reilly.
A superb flowing move the length of the pitch led to Menton being fouled and Lenihan made no mistake with his free from the ground to narrow the deficit to the minimum, 0-6 to 1-4.
However, all that good recovery work was undone in the following eight minutes as Cork restored their five-point cushion with O'Neill and Collins both scoring a brace, one from play and one from a free each, to make it 1-8 to 0-6.
Thomas O'Reilly pulled one back for Meath, but Cork ensured a 1-9 to 0-7 interval lead with Collins using the wind to good effect to convert a 45-metre free.
Turning with the wind at their backs Meath must have felt they were still in the game, but Cork kept their scoreboard ticking over with converted frees from Collins and O'Neill sandwiching points from Reilly and O'Reilly to maintain their five-point cushion.
Cork managed three of the next four scores with O'Neill (two, one free) and Collins countering a score from Cillian O'Sullivan to make it 1-13 to 0-10.
That pattern remained. Two points from O'Sullivan and James McEntee were countered by scores from O'Neill and corner-back Matthew Taylor as Cork led 1-15 to 0-12 early in the final quarter.
Frees from O'Sullivan and Lenin closed the defiit to four points again, but in the closing five minutes Cork put the issue beyond doubt when Collins added another free and from the resultant kickout O'Rourke intercepted Gallagher's poor kick and O'Neill apllied the finishing touch to make it 2-16 to 0-14.
An O'Sullivan free was followed by a mini-scuffl qwhich saw Conlon and Power booked, with Powder picking up a red after being booked earlier for a careless slide tackle.
There was still time for Seamus Lavin to blast a 76th minute, but it wasn't even a consolation score as Meath now find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle.
Cork - Mark White; Kevin Flahive, Jamie O'Sullivan, Matthew Taylor (0-1); Kevin Crowley, Brian O'Driscoll, Tom Clancy; Ian Maguire, Cillian O'Hanlon; Kevin O'Driscoll, Sean White (0-1), Ruairi Deane; John O'Rourke (1-1), Colm O'Neill (1-6 two frees), Mark Collins (0-7 four frees). Subs – Michael McSweeney for Deane, Conor Dorman for B O'Driscoll both 38 mins, Michael Hurley for White 62m, Peter Kelleher for K O'Driscoll, Donncha O'Connor for O'Neill both 69m. Black card – K Crowley (replaced by Cian Kiely 65m).
Meath – David Gallagher; Seamus Lavin (1-0), Conor McGill, Donal Keogan; Mickey Burke, Brian Power, Shane McEntee; Bryan Menton, Brian Conlon; James McEntee (0-1), Ben Brennan (0-1 free), Cillian O'Sullivan (0-4 two frees); Graham Reilly (0-3), Thomas O'Reilly (0-2), Donal Lenihan (0-4 frees). Subs – Harry Rooney for Burke 31 mins, Eamon Wallace for Brennan 54m, Sean Tobin for O'Reilly 62m, Padraig McKeever for Lenihan 64m, Bryan McMahon for S McEntee 67m.
Referee - Sean Hurson (Tryone).