Ireland’s victory hopes evaporated as their bowlers were made to toil on the third day of their Intercontinental Cup match against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club.
Zimbabwe duo Sean Williams and Keith Dabengwa both posted centuries to swing the momentum in favour of the hosts, who finished the day on 506 for six and with a lead of 41 runs.
The left-handed duo compiled a 237-run stand for the fourth wicket and while they were both finally dismissed, Ireland could muster just one further wicket for the day.
With just one day remaining, Zimbabwe look the only team capable of winning a match that defending champions Ireland had looked in control of when Williams and Dabengwa resumed this morning on 175 for three.
At that stage Ireland’s first innings total of 465 seemed some way off, but after Williams picked off the 12 runs he needed to complete his century the partnership blossomed deep into the afternoon session.
John Mooney eventually made the initial breakthrough when he had Williams caught by Gary Wilson for 178, but Dabengwa soon followed his partner into triple figures.
The 30-year-old left-hander continued onto 140 and had his team within sight of Ireland’s score when Kevin O’Brien struck twice in quick succession.
O’Brien removed Dabengwa caught by Paul Stirling and in his next over pinned wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva lbw for 54 to have Zimbabwe 457 for six.
The Irish bowlers may have hoped to mop up the tail quickly, but new men Forster Mutizwa and Shingirai Masakadza frustrated them further in an unbeaten 49-run stand to usher Zimbabwe into a lead they will look to extend further when they resume tomorrow.