Englishman Barnes had been a major factor in Ireland's defeat on their last visit to Wales two years ago when he repeatedly penalised them at the breakdown for tacklers not rolling away.
Interim head coach Howley said afterwards he was immensely proud of the way his players had bounced back after consecutive losses to England and Scotland but reserved special praise for North.
Aware that their tickets to New Zealand were in danger of being ripped up, they responded to the vicious criticism they have received in the last fortnight, by producing their best performance of the season, not least George North, who scored the first two of Wales' three tries.
The players have been outstanding since the Scotland game.
A simple kick in front of the posts was never going to be missed by Sexton as the gap closed once again in the Welsh capital, and with 20 minutes on the clock a pivotal moment arrived.
"We always say we are fortunate to have the best supporters in the world and we are eager to put in a performance for them under the lights at Principality Stadium on Friday".
Eventually Ireland got back in the lead, scoring a try and they held out until the finish.
"From our point of view we're looking at reviewing today what we got wrong, what we did right, we did a lot of good things this evening and that shouldn't be overlooked and that's what we're programmed to do you know?"
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"Our defence wasn't good enough, we were slipping off tackles and fair play Wales punished us, the fightback showed the character in the team but in the end it wasn't enough".
"We just make, on our slightly off days, a couple of silly unforced errors, which at this level are massive".
North's brace took his tally for Wales to an impressive 30. It was a case of drawing a line underneath it (Scotland) and moving on as quickly as we could, focusing 100 per cent on the Ireland game.
"We just concentrated on ourselves and we came out firing".
Asked if Ireland have lost ground since the autumn series, Schmidt replied: "No, I don't think so".
In a general observation, Schmidt said: "We play off more scrums than anyone else in the championship, and it's incredibly infuriating when teams that don't tend to play off scrums get rewarded for the way they approach the scrum".
Ireland stuck with the same XV that battled hard to victory in France, while Wales' stuttering stars had been given a shot at redemption following their Murrayfield capitulation.