Ireland were in the unfamiliar position of runaway favourites for a World Cup match. Then the UAE were in the even less familiar position of having a match against a higher ranked team more or less in their keeping. Finally, both sides were in the uncharted territory of a thrilling encounter that sustained the attention of the globe like no other match at this tournament so far.

Associate nations have to learn to be resilient. They suffer for a lack of funding, facilities and fixtures. Many players must juggle jobs. But seldom do they have to cope with the sort of expectation that has now settled upon Ireland at this event.

They had not just squeaked past the West Indies but beaten them with plenty of room to spare. They look a more settled unit than Pakistan, a team they have of course defeated before. And they carry the torch for cricket's second tier with passionate play and equally forceful words, as demonstrated by William Porterfield on match eve.

In a match against a Full Member country, Ireland can keep a low profile, play to their limits and hope that things will run their way. Often enough in ICC events they have done so. But against the UAE, a team they had not lost to since 2001, there was a requirement to go into the contest knowing they should win, and knowing that all spectators and viewers fully expecting them to do so, and handsomely.

Such a scenario can do strange things to the mind, the hands and the feet. First of all, at the unfamiliar Gabba, the captain William Porterfield elected to send the UAE in to bat, even though the surface looked brimful of runs and locals could attest to the ground's propensity for more extravagant swing and nip off the pitch in the evening. Porterfield stuck to what Ireland have known best as an accomplished chasing team, but his choice left the bowlers to toil in warm conditions and in the absence of much movement.

Next Shaiman Anwar, a middle order dynamo who was flushed with confidence after notching his highest ODI tally against Zimbabwe, made more than a few members of the Ireland attack look pedestrian after the UAE had slipped to 78 for 4 and then 131 for 6.

In particular, Anwar drove Kevin O'Brien to distraction by moving laterally across the crease, causing the bowler to stop in his run-up several times and also deliver a motley collection of wides and other loose offerings that the batsman leapt eagerly upon. A chase for 279 was at least 40 more than expected. His first ODI hundred, and the first by a UAE batsman in the World Cup, had the feel of victory.

There was a heaviness to Ireland's early progress in the chase that conveyed further anxiety. The new balls zipped and curved in the early evening air, Manjula Guruge doing a decent enough impression of Chaminda Vaas by alternating inswing with away slant and accounting for Paul Stirling in the process.

Ed Joyce was exceptionally lucky when Amjad Javed struck his off stump but the corresponding bail refused to fly off, but even this rare moment could not prevent Ireland from fretting to 97 for 4 thanks to some nifty spin bowling by the ageless Mohammad Tauqir.

Intriguingly though, the development of a scenario in which Ireland were no longer favoured to win proved to be the making of their victory. Suddenly minds were clarified by a simple, steep equation, much as they were on that memorable night in Bangalore. Alongside Andy Balbirnie, Gary Wilson set a platform, and once the younger man was dismissed for 30, O'Brien reprised his England burst while Wilson scurried busily between the wickets.

It was an exhilarating stand, changing the game in the course of six overs and 72 runs. Wilson enjoyed the recognisable support at the other end from O'Brien.

"A few people have mentioned that to me now," he said afterwards. "I've batted a lot with Kev over the last 10-15 years, last year with Surrey and then with Ireland. We dovetail really nicely - I poke it for one and he hits it out the ground, so it's great!"

Perhaps not surprisingly, the team's return to a favoured position brought another seemingly reflexive wobble, as O'Brien, John Mooney and Wilson fell to leave the cool-headed George Dockrell to smite the sealing boundary. Wilson spoke of how his team were unhappy to have let the match get as close as they did, but equally that they were sustained by a handsome record in chasing.

"It was obviously closer than we wanted it to be definitely, but we've been in this position before at a World Cup and chased down totals before, and I think that really stood us in good stead," he said. "We knew that if a couple of us were there until close to the end we would have a pretty good shot at winning."

Chasing is familiar but favouritism is not so common. For their next assignment, against South Africa in Canberra, Ireland will once again be cast as resilient outsiders. After the travails of a thrilling Brisbane evening, it is a position they will relish once again.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig