Ronan O'Gara on his way to scoring Ireland's winning try
Ireland (10) 23
Tries: Trimble, O'Gara
Cons: O'Gara 2
Pens: O'Gara 2
Drop goal: O'Gara
Italy (13) 20
Tries: Troncon, Pratichetti
Cons: Bortolussi, De Marigny
Drop goal: Bortolussi
Ireland needed a controversial injury-time try by Ronan O'Gara to earn a fortunate 23-20 win over Italy in the World Cup warm-up game.
Matteo Pratichetti's try seconds earlier, which also looked a dubious score, appeared to have earned Italy a shock victory at Ravenhill.
But O'Gara was awarded the clinching try by the video referee.
Andrew Trimble scored Ireland's first try but Alessandro Troncon's score helped Italy lead 13-10 at the break.
The 14,000 full house watching Ireland's first Ravenhill international in 53 years should have witnessed a try in the third minute after Denis Leamy's break but Denis Hickie opted to go it alone instead of passing to Girvan Dempsey and was bottled up by the Italian defence.
More Irish pressure yielded a successful penalty for O'Gara in the sixth minute but instead of pushing on, the home side then began to lose their way somewhat.
Italy levelled in the 21st minute with a superb drop-goal from full-back David Bortolussi, who gathered a loose clearance from O'Gara and fired over from the 10-metre line.
Tempers then flared with a number of players getting involved after Italian number eight Sergio Parisse had thrown a punch at Peter Stringer.
The Irish responded in the best possible fashion with Ulsterman Andrew Trimble scrambling over for a try after Bortolussi had failed to gather O'Gara's towering Garryowen.
O'Gara added the conversion but there was only four points between the sides in the 32nd minute when Bortolussi slotted an Italian penalty.
The strong Italian pack exerted control in the closing minutes of the first half with the Irish scrum looking under a degree of pressure.
Andrew Trimble scores Ireland's first-half try
Italian winger Matteo Pratichetti won a penalty after charging into the Irish 22 and Tronton's quick tap saw him bursting through the defence to get the try, after the correct judgement by the video official.
Bortolussi landed the conversion to extend Italy's lead to 13-10 and despite some Irish pressure in injury-time, the Italians maintained their lead to the interval.
Geordan Murphy was prominent as Ireland made a rousing start to the second half and O'Gara punished Azzurri indiscipline with a penalty just moments after hitting the woodwork.
The large error count continued to affect both sides as Ireland's efforts to break down Italy's robust defence were repeatedly frustrated.
Trimble's break in the 72nd minute after an Italian fumble set up a chance for Hickie but the Irish wing didn't have to legs to get past Kaine Robertson.
However, the Irish had finally broken into Italian territory and O'Gara seized the chance to regain the lead by firing over a long-range drop goal in the 74th minute.
But Italy appeared to have won the game in injury-time when Pratichetti's notched a breakaway try after Peter Stringer had fumbled the ball in the Italian half.
Geordan Murphy claimed that Pratichetti had impeded him in the build-up to the score but the try was awarded and Roland De Marigny added the extras to increase Italy's lead to 20-16.
Ireland looked beaten but they got one final chance with Trimble's forward-looking pass setting up O'Gara to charge for the Italian line.
There looked to be major doubt over whether O'Gara had grounded the ball after being challenged by Kaine Robertson but the score was awarded - much to the Ravenhill crowd's relief.
Granted, Shane Horgan, David Wallace and talisman Brian O'Driscoll were missing from the Irish side but this display was not encouraging for the weeks ahead.
Ireland: G Dempsey; G Murphy, A Trimble, G D'Arcy, D Hickie; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, R Best, J Hayes, P O'Connell, capt, D O'Callaghan, S Easterby, N Best, D Leamy.
Replacements: J Flannery, S Best, M O'Kelly, A Quinlan, I Boss, P Wallace, B Carney.
Italy: D Bortolussi, K Robertson, G Canale, M Bergamasco, M Pratichetti, R De Marigny, A Troncon, S Parisse, R Barbieri, A Zanni, M Bortolami (capt), V Bernabo, M Castrogiovanni, Fabio Ongaro, Salvatore Perugini
Replacements: L Ghiraldini, M Aguero, J Sole, M Vosawai, P Griffen, P Canavosio, E Galon