There had been pleasantries aplenty, as well as much good will for Ireland as they joined Test cricket's exclusive club. Now came the hard reality.Responding to Pakistan's declaration shortly before lunch on the third day, Ireland stuttered and stumbled to 7 for 4, the dream of their Test debut threatening to become a nightmare.
From there, they arguably recovered pretty well, but a first-innings score of 130 was still penurious enough for Pakistan to enforce the follow on for the first time in 16 years and seven opportunities. Having waited until the age of 39 to make his Test debut, Ed Joyce might not have minded the chance to bat again. He received a marginal lbw call to be first man out in Ireland's initial effort but played with greater freedom second time around in an unbroken opening stand.
Joyce and his partner William Porterfield benefited from dropped catches, Mohammad Amir the bowler on both occasions. Joyce was reprieved on 0, from Amir's third ball, when Sarfraz Ahmed could only get half a glove on a low edge, while Porterfield had 2 to his name when a much simpler chance popped out of Azhar Ali's grasp at third slip.
Amir promptly left the field at the end of that over, seemingly in some discomfort rather than out of pique. He then pulled up after bowling two balls of a fourth over - having sent down 10 in the first innings - shortly before the close, leaving Pakistan with a couple of unforeseen issues to contemplate overnight.
Pakistan's total of 310 for 9 declared covered up more than it revealed. Faheem Ashraf took his maiden Test innings to within sight of a century but three dropped catches hinted at Irish frustration. Following the loss of the first day to rain, and the subsequent lowering of the follow-on target to 150, Sarfraz Ahmed then spied an opportunity to see how the Pakistan bowlers could exploit a seaming, albeit slow-ish, surface.
The answer was emphatic, as the Mohammads Abbas and Amir removed the Ireland top three in the space of 37 balls before lunch. It took a sturdy knock of 40 from Kevin O'Brien and an even gutsier display from Gary Wilson, batting at No. 9 after suffering a blow to his right elbow during practice before the start of play, to lift Ireland from ignominy and, eventually, to three figures in their first Test innings.
While Ireland had unquestionably done a decent job with the new ball on Saturday, Pakistan's opening pair tore in with added subcontinental sizzle. Abbas was fortunate that Richard Illingworth raised his finger after pitching the ball just outside leg before hitting Joyce on the pads, but there was no issue about the decisions to send back Andy Balbirnie and Niall O'Brien. With Porterfield losing his off stump to Amir, Irish eyes were wincing.
Paul Stirling was the first to take up his cudgel in response, although his attempt to smear Ashraf back down the ground in his first over in Tests was ill-conceived. He added 29 with Kevin O'Brien, who took the score on to 61 - still 100 from avoiding the follow on - in the company of Stuart Thompson, before Shadab Khan's legspin accounted for two in an over.
It was 73 for 8 when Kevin O'Brien slapped the returning Amir to cover but Wilson, grimacing throughout but refusing to give his wicket away, was then joined by the willing Boyd Rankin as the ninth-wicket pair compiled the highest stand of the innings. Abbas returned to claim his fourth and Shadab finished off the innings but Wilson's unbeaten 33 was symbolic of Irish resolve - a foundation which Joyce and Porterfield built on doughtily during the evening sunshine.
Pakistan had resumed their innings in a more comfortable position than looked likely after being reduced to 159 for 6, but Ireland did not take long to break through with the second new ball - although Shadab was perhaps unlucky to be given out lbw to a delivery from Tim Murtagh that looked to be missing leg stump.
Ireland then saw a third chance to dismiss Ashraf go begging: Andy McBrine, on as a substitute for Wilson and fielding in the slips, could not hold a thick edge when the allrounder had 72. He helped push Pakistan past 300 but there was to be no debut hundred as an excellent ball from Thompson, kicking and curving across the left-hander, took Ashraf on the glove and gave Niall O'Brien a chance he could not put down.
Sarfraz called his men in soon after, denying Murtagh the chance of his five-for. The Malahide Test has not wanted for milestones but Ireland's batsmen must produce something significant if they are to deprive Pakistan of the thing that matters most: victory.