Kevin O'Brien showed all his experience to keep Ireland's slim hopes of capturing a fifth ICC InterContinental Cup alive after they slumped to 166 for 8 against Scotland in Dubai.
O'Brien, winning his 293rd cap, top scored with a defiant unbeaten 78, adding what could well be a crucial 85 for the last two wickets with Tim Murtagh and Peter Chase.
The 33 year-old all-rounder struck 6 fours and cleared the ropes three times in his 97-ball innings, scoring his 31st half-century for the Irish - his 9th in the competition.
There was no sign of the collapse to come after the Irish recovered from the early loss of Paul Stirling (9) to race to 73 for 1 in the 15th over, but skipper William Porterfield (28) and Andrew Balbirnie (36) fell in quick succession, and from then Scotland were very much in the ascendancy.
Gary Wilson (21) and Simi Singh (17) both got starts, but Ireland were deep in the mire at 124 for 6 and 166 for 8 before O'Brien's late recovery.
Stuart Whittingham, Mark Watt and Chris Sole all picked up three wickets apiece with debutant Mitchell Rao the other successful bowler.
"The pitch was ok, a little bit two-paced when against the pace bowlers, there was little to no spin really," said O'Brien at the close of play.
"Scotland bowled very well in the second hour of the first session, slowed the run-rate right down and picked up a few wickets to take into lunch.
"I just tried to play as straight as I could, picking up any scoring opportunities I felt were there. My mind-set is always the same, look to be positive and score, but that doesn't mean trying to hit loads of 4's and 6's. I was trying to be positive in defence as well as scoring.
"Tim Murtagh and Peter Chase did brilliantly to add 85 for the last two wickets. It gives us a decent score, but we are well below par considering we got off to a fast start and were 73 for 1.
"If we bowl well tomorrow morning, pick up a few early wickets, it will set us up for the rest of the day."
Scotland safely negotiated a potentially tricky period before the close, reaching 37 for 0 with George Munsey unbeaten on 23.
Day 2 - Ireland dominate second day against Scotland
Ireland regained the ascendancy following a dominant all-round display on the second day of their ICC InterContinental Cup clash against Scotland in Dubai.
Boyd Rankin, Kevin O'Brien and Tim Murtagh all bowled superbly as the Irish racked up a 110-run first innings lead and the six bonus points on offer to keep alive their faint title hopes.
Replying to Ireland's total of 251, George Munsey (38) and Kyle Coetzer had shared an opening stand of 55 for Scotland before Rankin got the breakthrough, having Coetzer well caught by O'Brien at point for 22.
When Munsey was caught on the boundary by Chase off O'Brien shortly afterwards the floodgates opened as Rankin (4-45), O'Brien (3-14) and Murtagh (2-24) took advantage to leave the Scotland reply in tatters.
Safyaan Sharif struck a defiant unbeaten 26 but it was too little, too late as they were dismissed for 141.
Ireland played positively in the second innings but kept losing wickets when the batters looked well set.
Paul Stirling (12) was adjudged lbw early on, but William Porterfield (29) and Andrew Balbirnie (21) shared another half-century stand to keep Ireland in control, before both went within the space of six balls.
John Anderson (14) was trapped lbw but any hopes Scotland entertained of a late rally were extinguished by a 5th wicket stand of 64 between Gary Wilson and Simi Singh.
Wilson struck 5 boundaries in his 56 from 87 balls as he recorded his 28th half century in Irish colours - his 6th in the competition - before running himself out shortly before the close.
Singh (34*) and Kevin O'Brien (13*) safely negotiated the final four overs of the day without further alarm as the Irish finished on 186 for 5, an overall lead of 296, which puts them firmly in the driving seat going into the third day.
Day 3 - Chase leads Ireland to comprehensice win over Scotland
Peter Chase spearheaded an impressive Irish attack to an emphatic 203-run win in their final InterContinental Cup match to beat Scotland with a day to spare in Dubai.
The Malahide speedster took 4 for 52 - his best figures for Ireland - as Scotland were dismissed for 178 chasing an unlikely 382 for victory.
Chase was well supported by the new-ball pair of Tim Murtagh (3-35) and Boyd Rankin (2-39) as Scotland were unable to build any substantial partnerships despite several batsmen getting starts.
Mark Watt top-scored with 43, while Calum MacLeod and Michael Leask hit 33 apiece.
Chase reflected on the comprehensive win, but felt he hadn't changed too much from the first two days when he went wicket-less.
"To be honest I didn't really change much from the first innings. I felt I bowled well first up and I think I just got the rewards second time around. I'm very happy with how it went in both."
Earlier Simi Singh made his maiden half-century, top scoring with 59 as the Irish overcame the early loss of Kevin O'Brien to build a formidable total.
Singh shared a 7th wicket stand of 55 in 13 overs with George Dockrell who hit five boundaries in a breezy 40 from just 46 deliveries as Ireland scored 271.
The maximum points win takes Ireland to the top of the table, but Afghanistan will claim the crown for the second time if they avoid defeat against UAE on the final day. That is a nailed-on certainty as the hosts are 112 runs behind Afghanistan with seven wickets left, having been forced to follow-on.
Ireland's next red-ball match will be their inaugural Test match against Pakistan at Malahide on May 11th 2018, but they are back on the field in a week's time as they take on Afghanistan in a three-match ODI series in Sharjah.
The games give Ireland an opportunity to get revenge over Afghanistan who beat them 3-2 in a hard-fought ODI series in India earlier this year, and Peter Chase is hoping that the confidence gained from this week's win will put them in good stead.
"I'm definitely looking forward now to the Afghan games. Weve had a good rivalry of late with some close ODI series. Hopefully we can take the momentum from this game into that series and claim victory."