In the end there was nine points between them but Donegal will be happy with their second half display in Croke Park last night.
After being humbled in the opening half, they were level at 0-11 each midway through the second half and then lost Michael Murphy to injury.
Dublin edged ahead and then fired home two goals in the last minute to put a flattering look on the scoreboard.
Donegal went in at half-time 0-9 to 0-5 in arrears and must have felt the wrath of Jim McGuinness as they committed so many basic errors in the opening half - three times shooting short into Cluxton’s arms and many other times having passes intercepted.
This was underlined seconds before the break when Anthony Thompson was blocked by Michael Dara Macauley and Tomas Quinn was gifted a point.
It could have been a much bigger deficit as Paul Durcan made two magnificent stops, flicking an Eamon Fennell goalbound effort somehow over the crossbar. He also denied Macauley from close range and the Donegal defence also blocked another goal effort from Diarmuid Connolly. The Dubs were just far superior in the opening half with eight different scorers getting their name on the scoresheet.
Dublin were three points up in four minutes from Bryan Cullen, Connolly and Johnny Cooper.
Michael Murphy pulled two points back and Macauley and Anthony Thompson traded points by the 14th minute.
Dublin took over in the possession stages midway through the half with Durcan almost singlehandedly keeping Donegal in the contest, aided by some poor Dublin shooting as they amassed seven first half wides.
Kevin McManamon was causing most problems and he had Dublin’s seventh point. Donegal had a goal chance on 25 minutes when Neil Gallagher found his clubmate Michael Murphy in behind the full-back and he seemed to be fouled as he was shooting. From the ‘45’ Murphy reduced the margin, but before half-time points from Connolly and Quinn cancelled out a good score from Leo McLoone.
The second half was a completely different game with Donegal hitting four points to draw level, Murphy leading by example, getting two while Neil McGee came forward to also hit the target.
Dublin two up again but Christy Toye and Murphy levelled only for Stephen Cluxton to do his party piece and McManamon added one of the scores of the game.
Donegal kept in touch with Patrick McBrearty denied by Cluxton before Bryan Cullen and Diarmuid Connolly closed out the game with goals in the 71st and 72nd minutes.
There was plenty of food for thought for the Donegal management team after this game. They know that they were off the pace in the opening half, but matched Dublin for long periods of the second half.
Much will depend now on the outcome of the last game when Donegal are at home to Armagh with their Division One status at stake.
Scorers - Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-6,2f,’45’; Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson, Neil McGee, Martin McElhinney, David Walsh, Christy Toye, Patrick McBrearty (f) 0-1 each.
Dublin: Bryan Cullen 1-1; Diarmuid Connolly 1-3,2f; Kevin McManamon 0-3; Johnny Cooper, Eamon Fennell, Michael Darragh Macauley, Alan Brogan, Tomas Quinn, Stephen Cluxton (f), Dean Kelly, Dean Rock 0-1 each.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Cian O’Sullivan, Rory O’Carroll, Philly McMahon; Johnny Cooper, Ger Brennan, Kevin Nolan; Michael Darragh Macauley, Eamon Fennell; Paul Flynn, Alan Brogan, Bryan Cullen; Tomás Quinn, Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon. Subs., Sean Murray for Brennan 24; Dean Rock for A Brogan 29; Craig Dias for Cooper 59
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Frank McGlynn, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Anthony Thompson, Karl Lacey, Leo McLoone; Christy Toye, Neil Gallagher; Mark McHugh, Ryan Bradley, Martin O’Reilly; Martin McElhinney, Michael Murphy, Patrick McBrearty. Subs., David Walsh for O’Reilly 29; Eamon McGee for Toye 52; Adrian Hanlon for Murphy 59; Daniel McLauglin for Bradley 63
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)