WALES hopes of a Six Nations title challenge evaporated in Dublin after being edged out by Ireland in a cracker.

Warren Gatland’s men had no margin for error after being edged out by champions England and despite showing incredible resilience they were unable to upset the odds.

They led by eight points in the first half but had to come back from 14 down after the break and then 10 points down with 77 minutes gone.

Ireland had a number of occasions when they thought victory was secure but Wales kept coming back like the T-1000 in Terminator 2.

Incredibly they were in with a chance as the clock went into the red only for Gareth Anscombe’s long pass – and he had to chance his arm – to be picked off by Jacob Stockdale.

That ensured Ireland secured part three of a Grand Slam challenge with a mouth-watering date in London to come in round five, although there could be some Scottish spanners in the works before then.

Wales, meanwhile, should end with a pair of home victories against Italy and France but it will be the manner of performance and who is in the XVs that will be of interest.

Gatland must be tempted to ring the changes and give chances against the Azzurri a week on Sunday, perhaps with a first Test start for Dragons hooker Elliot Dee.

Number eight Taulupe Faletau will come into contention, wing George North should start while it could be a prime opportunity to see Gareth Anscombe in 10.

They have given it a real good crack in London and Dublin, leaving both fortresses with heads held high, and now they deserve their home comforts.

There will be an element of frustration at another defeat but in truth Ireland deserved the points thanks to their power game but it was a keen contest throughout.

Wales’ selection showed that they wanted to improve in the air after being outplayed in that facet by England and they won the opening skirmishes.

First Leigh Halfpenny claimed a kick and survived a big tackle by centre Chris Farrell and then, from the resulting play, wing Steff Evans forced Keith Earls to knock on and Bundee Aki picked up the loose ball from an offside position.

Halfpenny superbly banged over a second minute penalty and that excellent effort was put in context by a shocking miss from the tee by Jonathan Sexton straight from the restart, the Lion slamming the ball against the right post.

However, Wales didn’t make the most of that error with Scott Williams’ forward pass gifting a scrum 10 metres out.

Ireland hammered away at the line before Sexton conjured a lovely pass to the left to expose Halfpenny’s defensive blitz and provide a run-in for wing Jacob Stockdale.

The fly-half missed the conversion and a normally routine 15th minute penalty as Wales got away with getting on the wrong side of New Zealand official Glen Jackson – they had already been pinged more times than in the whole 80 minutes at Twickenham.

Wales were hanging on and well on their way to the 200 tackles that defence coach Shaun Edwards had said they would need to make.

They had enjoyed just 29 per cent of possession… yet promptly went into a 10-5 lead.

A strong carry into the 22 by flanker Aaron Shingler was followed by a deliberate knock on but the ball fell kindly to scrum-half Gareth Davies, who unwisely ignored an overlap but had the pace to go under the sticks for a try that Halfpenny converted.

The full-back missed one long-range penalty but banged over a 40-metre effort for a 13-5 lead after half an hour.

It didn’t last long with a super break by Keith Earls putting Ireland into the 22 where they hammered away at the line, leaving Wales pretty content to only concede a three-pointer to Sexton for offside.

But they didn’t escape from the final play of the half when they were pinned inside their 22 after a daft Shingler penalty for offside as he tries to put the pressure on a Conor Murray box kick.

Ireland hammered away at the line and then centre Bundee Aki carried hard and stretched out to dot down for a score that Sexton converted to make it 15-13 at the break.

That soon became 22-13 with flanker Dan Leavy powering over from close range after another Earls break into the 22 with Sexton converting.

Ireland were utterly dominant and looking to not just secure a win but their four-try bonus.

It came with 54 minutes on the clock when prop Cian Healy powered over with Wales just unable to escape from their own 22.

The conversion was wide but at 27-13 it looked like curtains for the visitors.

However, it was soon a seven-point game thanks to a terrific try that stemmed from a brilliant Biggar aerial claim. The ball was moved left for Steff Evans to go on the run then spread right for Josh Navidi to put over his fellow flanker Aaron Shingler.

Sexton was having a nightmare from the tee but Halfpenny had no such worries, slamming over a touchline conversion to give Ireland some wobbles.

They could have eased them with a penalty but their fly-half bizarrely took a quick tap and Wales escaped as the clock ticked into the 70s.

However, they couldn’t get within reach of the line and a strong Irish scrum earned another chance to seal the win in the 76th minute.

With Sexton stretching, Murray stepped up to knock over what looked like the winner for 30-20… only for Wales to claim the restart.

They went from one flank to the other with Steff Evans sent clear down the left, Halfpenny’s conversion making it 30-27 with two minutes left.

Wales claimed the restart and were pressing at the clock went into the red but Stockdale read Anscombe's mind and took away the consolation bonus, not that it mattered, by racing away.

Ireland: R Kearney, K Earls (F McFadden 63), C Farrell, B Aki, J Stockdale, J Sexton (J Carbery 77), C Murray; C Healy (J McGrath 63), R Best (captain, S Cronin 70), A Porter (J Ryan 66), J Ryan, D Toner (Q Roux 73), P O'Mahony (J Conan 66), D Leavy, CJ Stander

Scorers: tries – J Stockdale (2), B Aki, D Leavy, C Healy; conversions – J Sexton (2), J Carbery; penalties – J Sexton, C Murray

Wales: L Halfpenny, L Williams (G North 63), S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans, D Biggar (G Anscombe 63), G Davies; R Evans (W Jones 55-73), K Owens (E Dee 55), S Lee (T Francis 55), C Hill (B Davies 63), AW Jones (captain), A Shingler, J Navidi, R Moriarty (J Tipuric 63).

Scorers: tries – G Davies, A Shingler, S Evans; conversions – L Halfpenny (3); penalties – L Halfpenny (2)

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)