Leading by 8 - 7 thanks to an early penalty from Niamh Briggs and a try from replacement hooker Chris Fanning, they then suffered a shattering blow as a breakout from England led to a try from Katherine Merchant. A second try followed in injury time leaving the Irish team rueing the late loss.
Both sides kicked off at a furious pace despite atrocious conditions, and although England dominated possession Ireland drew first blood with a 13th minute penalty from the boot of fullback Briggs. Chris Fanning, on as a replacement for Yvonne Nolan added a try from a driving maul off a lineout to cancel out England's 23rd minute try.
The seond half saw England apply serious pressure as they sought to turn around the 8 - 7 half time score but strong defence kept them out and the tantalising hope of a famous victory alive for the Irish women.
The victory gave the reigning Six Nations champions their 19th win on the trot and thereby handing England the title of record holders in both the men's and women's game for most consecutive test wins.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: "Ireland proved to be our toughest opponents in the Six Nations last season so we knew this was going to be a very tough fixture. Coupled with the fact that we've had limited training and we have been balancing six nations and 7s world cup preparations, this was a challenging fixture.
Ireland Women's Team Manager Rachael Reid was pleased with the performance though disappointed with the late loss "Five years ago we would have been delighted to be within 10 points of England. The girls played their hearts out today and while there is disappointment in the dressing room today it shows just how much we have improved in the past few seasons and we can really build on this for the 6 Nations in 2009"
15 - Niamh Briggs (Munster), 14 - Grace Davitt (Leinster), 13 - Lynne Cantwell (Munster), 12 - Helen Brosnan (Munster), 11 - Amy Davis (Ulster), 10 - Joanne O'Sullivan (Ulster), 9 - Louise Beamish (Munster), 1 - Fiona Coghlan (Leinster), 2 - Yvonne Nolan (Leinster), 3 - Gillian Bourke (Munster), 4 - Caroline Mahon (Leinster), 5 - Louise Austin (Leinster), 6 - Kate O'Loughlin (Munster), 7 - Sinead Ryan (Leinster), 8 - Joy Neville (Munster) Captain.
1 Rochelle Clark (Blaydon Team Northumbria), 2 Amy Garnett (Saracens), 3 Katy Storie (Blaydon Team Northumbria), 4 Natalie Binstead (Wasps), 5 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), 6 Karen Jones (Richmond), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), 8 Catherine Spencer (C) (Bristol), 9 Amy Turner (Richmond), 10 Katy McLean (VC) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 11 Francesca Matthews (Richmond), 12 Charlotte Barras (Saracens), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 15 Danielle Waterman (Blaydon Team Northumbria).
Replacements: 16 Emma Layland (Richmond), 17 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 20 Georgina Rozario (Plymouth Albion), 21 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 22 Tina Lee (Bristol)
Tries: Scarratt, Merchant, Spencer
Conversions: McLean (2)