Donegal led by 1-07 to 0-09 at half-time with Stephen Griffin finding the net for Jim McGuinness’s men.
Niall McDermott converted the rebound from his missed penalty to given the Breffni the momentum and although Paddy McBrearty found the net in the closing stages, Cavan hung on for the win.
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has confirmed that he will have to plan without the services of Michael Murphy for the start of the league with the forward set for groin surgery.
McKenna Cup results
Saturday 14 January
Derry 1-16 0-14 UUJ (Celtic Park)
Sunday 15 January
Antrim 0-10 1-12 Tyrone (Casement Park)
Fermanagh 2-14 0-10 Queen’s (Brewster Park)
Monaghan 0-11 4-12 Down (Clones)
Armagh 1-18 0-10 St Mary’s College (Athletic Grounds)
Cavan 1-14 2-8 Donegal (Breffni Park)
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