Ireland beat reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Wales 30-22 in a pulsating six-try encounter as they announced their title credentials at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
First-half tries by wing Simon Zebo, on his first Six Nations appearance, and prop Cian Healy helped put daylight between the teams before imperious centre Brian O’Driscoll touched down shortly after the break.
Wales, 30-3 down and facing humiliation, stirred through touchdowns from wing Alex Cuthbert, full-back Leigh Halfpenny and substitute prop Craig Mitchell during a frantic second period when Ireland saw hooker Rory Best and scrum-half Conor Murray sin-binned - but they ultimately left themselves with far too much to do.
Ireland, despite playing almost the entire second period inside their own half, scored 30 points in Cardiff for the first time since 2001.
And they condemned Wales to an eighth successive defeat - and a fifth Millennium Stadium reversal on the bounce - with interim head coach Rob Howley still searching for a first win against another Test-playing country.
Wales must now pick themselves up for a trip to Paris next Saturday, where title favourites France await, but yet again they were punished for failing to leave their starting blocks until it was way too late.
Such sluggishness proved a trait of Wales during the four-Test autumn campaign, and Ireland needed no second invitation to capitalise, deservedly winning despite conceding 19 unanswered points after the 43rd minute.
It was Wales’s first Six Nations loss since March 2011, but Ireland, in contrast, now have critical momentum that could drive them all the way to silverware in a tournament they last won four years ago.