In the end Kerry prevailed having trailed at the interval and not led the match until David Clifford’s free put them 0-15 to 0-14 ahead in the 54th minute.
There were plenty anxious moments for manager Jack O’Connor who has guided his county to another All-Ireland in his third tenure, and first year back.
Clifford ended up top scorer for Kerry with 0-8, with three points from play, while his brother Paudie took time to get into the match but provided two vital second half points and won a free for another Kerry score.
They had to delve deep, as Killian and Adrian Spillane came on at half time, replacing David Moran and Paul Geaney. In the second half Killian Spillane’s two points were also a huge benefit as they tried to get control of the match.
Graham O’Sullivan emerged an unlikely hero with two assists and a point from play in the second half, which Kerry won 0-13 to 0-8, after Galway led 0-8 to 0-7 at half time.
Sean O’Shea didn’t score from play, well shadowed by Liam Silke, but after the sides were tied on nine different occasions Kerry found a winning kick at the finish with the last four scores.
The outstanding Cillian McDaid, probably the best player on the pitch, levelled the sides a final time with five minutes left. A minute earlier he won a free which Shane Walsh put over - ending Galway’s longest scoreless stretch, all of 17 minutes back to McDaid’s third in the 47th minute which had Galway ahead 0-14 to 0-12.
McDaid finished with four points from play, while Shane Walsh delivered a huge performance too, especially in the first half, ending the match with 0-9, four from play and producing an almost flawless exhibition of place kicking.
But two ahead in the 47th minute, Galway were outscored 0-8 to 0-2 from there to the finish, that included five minutes of additional time. Spillane, Paudie Clifford and O’Sullivan came strongly into the game as Galway began to tire and hit wides.
They were also unable to get much out of Damien Comer who failed to score. Oddly, they only went direct with high ball in the final minutes when they needed a goal to rescue the match.
Having seen Galway draw level again with five minutes to go, Kerry finished impressively. It began with a controversial free awarded against John Daly, charged while in possession of the ball with trying to manufacture a free by holding his opponent's arm.
David Clifford had a tight angle to negotiate but sliced the posts. Kerry were back in front and they finished with fisted points from Spillane and Gavin White, before captain Seanie O’Shea sealed the win with a free deep in additional time.
Kerry were remarkably poor in the first half, fortunate head off at the interval only a point in arrears. Often stripped of possession when they took the ball into the tackle, facing a heavily-manned maroon defence, they were unable to create any goal chances or much in the way of flowing moves.
Direct ball was a bit more successful with Clifford and Geaney making good marks, but even Clifford missed a chance from 40m on his favoured left foot that you would back him all day to convert.
Their seven first half wides stood in contrast to just one from Galway, hit by Walsh after 32 minutes.
Walsh was quickly into the game, giving his appointed marker Tom O’Sullivan a torrid time, and leading the attack with confidence, the best forward on view.
While Comer saw hardly any ball, Walsh stepped up with five first half points, including two frees and a 45. Daly was influential in setting up two of Galway’s points, as well as another in the second, with one of those a goal chance for Johnny Heaney, Daly picking him out expertly but Heaney’s shot half blocked by Stephen O’Brien.
Walsh had Galway in front after four minutes, drawing first blood from a sweetly struck 45 into the Hill 16 end. Heaney’s point doubled the lead before Clifford got Kerry off the mark when fielding a high ball and winning a free before converting.
A brilliant Walsh point midway through the half, cutting infield on to this right before judging the ball beautifully as it sailed between the posts, advanced Galway’s lead to three points, 0-5 to 0-2.
But Kerry hit their best spell by scoring the next three points to draw level for the first time by the 20th minute, scores from Geaney’s mark, a first from play from David Clifford, and then the equaliser by O’Brien.
Sean Kelly took responsibility for marking Clifford with his brother Paudie policed by Jack Glynn, who had an excellent match for Galway even if he seemed to tire later on. Silke did a fine job keeping watch on O’Shea.
The sides were level on three occasions, with David Clifford picking up a yellow card after he caught Kelly high with a trailing hand.
Late first half points by Glynn and an excellent effort from McDaid, linking with Robert Finnerty, after Galway won their own kick out, had the Tribesmen in a deserved lead.
Kerry were worried and made sweat but eventually they found a way to end what was their third longest famine. Galway head west with their heads held high.
Kerry:D Clifford 0-8 (4fs, 1m); S O’Shea 0-3 (3fs), K Spillane, P Clifford 0-2 each; S O’Brien, P Geaney (m), G O’Sullivan, G White, D O’Connor 0-1 each.
Galway:S Walsh 0-9 (4fs, 1 45); C McDaid 0-4; J Heaney, J Glynn, K Molloy 0-1 each.
Kerry – S Ryan; G O’Sullivan, J Foley, T O’Sullivan; B O Beaglaoich, T Morley, G White; D Moran, J Barry; D O’Connor, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; P Clifford, D Clifford, P Geaney.
Subs:A Spillane for Moran & K Spillane for Geaney (both ht); M Burns for O’Brien (56); P Murphy for O Beaglaoich (63); J O’Connor for P Clifford (72).
Galway – C Gleeson; L Silke, S Kelly, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly, K Molloy; P Conroy, C McDaid; P Kelly M Tierney, J Heaney; R Finnerty, D Comer, S Walsh.
Subs:F O Laoi for Finnerty (47); C Sweeney for Conroy (58); E Finnerty for Heaney (62); N Daly for Tierney (74).
Referee:S Hurson (Tyrone).