USA's best bowling and fielding performance of the tournament was followed by a match-winning 66-run partnership between Man of the Match Nicholas Standford and Alex Amsterdam as they blew past Hong Kong by seven wickets at Clontarf.
Three run-outs and and a game-changing spell from medium pacer Japen Patel restricted Hong Kong to 125 for 7. Then USA's batsmen were able to polish off the game with 11 balls to spare.
For Hong Kong though, the defeat brought back memories of their inept show in their tournament opener against Jersey. And it would hurt them even more considering they defended 129 against Ireland only yesterday.
They had the chance to pierce through USA's shaky middle order with the score on 37 for 2 in the chase. Akeem Dodson had been run out following a calamitous mix up with his opening partner Fahad Babar while Japen Patel's dangerous cameo was cut short at 17 off nine balls. But errors in the field put paid to hopes of a fightback.
USA had made only two runs off the bat in the first 10 balls after Japen's wicket when Amsterdam, who was yet to score, lofted seamer Tanwir Afzal to 17-year old debutant Giacomo Lamplough at long-on. But the simple waist-high chance was spilled and Amsterdam went on to make an unbeaten 43. Amsterdam should have been out on 9 in the tenth over as well but Kinchit Shah misjudged a catch on the cover boundary off Anshuman Rath and the ball wound up going over his head, landed just inside the rope and bounced away for four.
Hong Kong bucked up as seamer Irfan Ahmed trapped Babar lbw for 15 off 26. USA might have felt a touch nervous at 62 for 3 in the 11th over, considering their history of middle-order collapses. But Standford took charge and finished that 11th over off with a monstrous six over the sightscreen. Irfan, who had been the catalyst for Hong Kong's victory over Ireland with 3 for 11, came in for some heavy punishment from Standford and finished with 1 for 33 in 3.1 overs.
With 32 needed off five overs, Hong Kong took a punt and asked Mark Chapman to bowl his first over of the tournament and it nearly worked. Standford, on 16, punched Chapman's left-arm spin but the bowler wasn't able to hold onto a tough overhead catch.
Amsterdam was on 41 at the time and Standford caught up with three big blows in the next over. Irfan, who was the bowler, conceded a pair of sixes over long on and then a pulled four through square leg. Standford smashed another four over the leg side off the first ball of the 19th over from Irfan to clinch victory and finished with 40 not out in 25 balls.
The platform for victory though was set up by USA's seamers who kept Hong Kong's batting in check. Captain Muhammad Ghous, who had opted to bowl after winning the toss, opened with a maiden and got the initial breakthrough in the third over. It might have been a lucky one; he trapped the left-handed Rath lbw while darting in his offspin over the wicket. But the batsman did shuffle across his stumps and was looking to flick behind square.
Left-arm seamer Naseer Jamali bowled a tight three-over spell in the Powerplay and conceded only 12 runs but Ghous was hit out of the attack by Irfan and Nizakat Khan. They swept and flicked a pair of fours before turning their attention to the off side. A cover drive raced to the boundary and took the score to 23 for 1 after five overs.
Nizakat fell to seamer Adil Bhatti's first ball, in the seveth over, as a flat-footed swish outside off took the edge and was well taken by wicketkeeper Dodson diving to his right.
Irfan was then run out by the bowler Hammad Shahid after a miscommunication with Chapman to end the tenth over with Hong Kong at 54 for 3. Hong Kong increased that tally by 29 runs to be 83 for 3 after 14 overs. Though the run-rate wasn't great, they had wickets in hand.
That's when Japen struck. He responded to being smacked to the point boundary by Chapman by dismissing the batsman the very next ball. Cramped for room, the glide to third man found the keeper's gloves instead. In his next over, Japen went full and straight to beat Babar Hayat's slog, and picked up one more in the 19th when Tanwir's hoick was skied to Timil Patel at point.
That was the first of four wickets off the final nine balls for Hong Kong. An alert Dodson denied a leg bye and ran Aizaz Khan out. Then Timil induced a mistimed drive from Haseeb Amjad to long-off, where Naseer Jamali took a good, running catch. Jamie Atkinson, the top-scorer with 34, was run-out off the final ball and USA went into the innings break with a spring in their step.
Now for USA to reach the playoffs, they must beat Papua New Guinea on Sunday and have two other results go in their favor. Ireland must beat Jersey and Namibia has to beat Hong Kong to put USA on six points to Hong Kong's five and Jersey's four while Nepal has already been eliminated from contention for a top-four spot by finishing on three points.