Down failed to pick up the point they needed to secure promotion from Division Two as they suffered a bitterly disappointing defeat by Meath.
Jim McCorry's side crashed to a 2-11 to 0-10 defeat at the hands of a Royal side threatened by relegation prior to their visit to Pairc Esler.
The Mourne men now need a result from next weekend's home tie against Laois if they are to return to Division One.
Bryan Menton and Padraic Harnan scored the second-half goals for Meath.
Paul Devlin converted an early free, but it was Meath, with the wind in their backs, who took the game to the home side, easing ahead with scores from Harnan, Mark O'Sullivan, with two frees, and Eamon Wallace.
A scrappy encounter was bogged down and almost suffocated by mistakes on the part of both sides, particularly Down, until Shane O'Rourke swung over a fine point to make it 0-5 to 0-2 in Meath's favour on 20 minutes.
That was quickly followed by a Conor Gillespie gem as the Leinster men opened up a four points advantage.
Down finally registered their first point from play through defender Darragh O'Hanlon in the 33rd minute, and it was stoppage time before they got a score from a forward, Kevin McKernan narrowing the gap to 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.
O'Sullivan landed his third free, and goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke drove a '45 into the wind and between the posts as the Royals went 0-8 to 0-4 ahead early in the second half.
Down lost Mark Poland to a black card on 45 minutes, but they narrowed the gap with two Donal O'Hare frees.
And Meath defender Brian Power was also dismissed on a black card during a spell of intense pressure, with the home side, now just a point behind, building momentum.
However, the Royals struck for a goal in the 56th minute, three subs combining for Menton to finish low to the net.
It was the visitors who led by 1-9 to 0-8 going into the final ten minutes, and the made sure of the points when Harnan latched onto a loose ball to punch to the net three minutes from the end, leaving Down to pick up the pieces and regroup for that final push for promotion against Laois next weekend.
Down: S Kane; G Collins, L Howard, D Turley; P Devlin, D O'Hanlon, C Maginn; P Turley, R Mallon; C McGovern, K McKernan, M Poland; C Laverty, A McConville, D O'Hare.
Meath: P O'Rourke; D Tobin, C McGill, D Keogan; M Burke, K Reilly, B Power; B Menton, A Flanagan; G Reilly, P Harnan, J McEntee; E Wallace, M Newman, M O'Sullivan.
Football League results - Saturday 28 March
Dublin 0-8 0-4 Derry
Laois 1-09 1-12 Kildare
Cavan 1-8 1-3 Westmeath
Down 0-10 2-11 Meath
Armagh 0-10 0-08 Louth
Sunday 29 March
Cork v Mayo (14:00 BST)
Kerry v Monaghan (15:00 BST)
Donegal v Tyrone (15:00 BST)
Roscommon v Galway (13:30)
Wexford v Fermanagh (13:00)
Tipperary v Sligo (15:00)
Limerick v Clare (15:00)
London v Waterford (13:00)
Antrim v Wicklow (15:00)
Carlow v Leitrim (15:00)
Longford v Offaly (15:00)