The Marress side are now third from bottom of the league and are due to conclude their league campaign with trips to both of the sides below them, first Newton Stewart whose home game against Marr fell victim to the weather, and then Garnock, who registered a vital win at home to Glasgow Accies, the following week.
With only one club likely to be relegated from West 1, Irvine will need victory in at least one of these games to ensure their survival, not least because the bottom two both have games in hand - albeit against the top two - and they will not want to leave the door open even a crack.
The Irvine committee had enjoyed excellent hospitality in the clubhouse prior to kick-off, but this did not extend onto the pitch as the home side came flying out of the traps and the game was barely two minutes old when fly-half David Sterry dropped a goal to edge them into the lead.
The next quarter hour belonged almost exclusively to Helensburgh, but apart from flanker Jonny Clipston being held up over the line and Sterry - who went on to have a mixed afternoon with the boot - missing a penalty, the home side were unable to capitalise.
Then it was Irvine's turn to have a spell of relative dominance, the highlight of which was a good break by scrum-half Robbie McVey who fed Ruchin Filander, who in turn tried to play in winger Neil McMillan who was unfortunate to knock on running into traffic.
The home side worked their way back into the game after this, and Sterry finally extended the home side's lead on 38 minutes before his opposite number Ross Bryan got the visitors off the mark with a penalty of his own on the stroke of half time.
The sin-binning of home number 8 Sean McNee in injury time was the only further incident before the first half ended with the hosts leading 6-3.
Despite their numerical disadvantage the home side began the second half as they had the first, notching the first try of the afternoon under the posts through centre Ali Cairns after a Bryan clearance attempt was charged down. Sterry added the conversion to put the home side 13-3 ahead.
Irvine responded by introducing Kris Hobson at fly-half in place of Ross Bryan, and began to force more penalties and attacking positions in the Helensburgh half. The pressure finally told shortly before the hour when the Irvine forwards mauled over in the corner from a penalty lineout to get the visitors back in the game. Hobson's conversion brought the score back to 13-10.
Irvine were galvanised by the try and could have squared the match at 13-13 when they forced an inviting penalty in the Helensburgh half shortly afterwards, but they opted to attempt another try from a lineout instead. It will never be known what effect kicking the goal might have had on the outcome, but the lineout came to nothing on this occasion.
Helensburgh stepped up a gear in response to the letoff, and twice Sterry had the chance to extend the home side's lead from the kicking tee only to miss on both occasions, although he was unlucky to see the latter kick rebound off the near post.
There was the by now almost customary flurry of yellow cards for Irvine in the closing stages before Sterry finally added the penalty goal he had been threatening with the last kick of the game.
While Irvine are in action at Newton Stewart - weather permitting - Marress are due to take on Greenock Wanderers at Fort Matilda.
HELENSBURGH -- J Drake; C Slader, A Dunlop, A Cairns, A Rogers; D Sterry,
O Curtis; M Gard, J Feltham, D Bowles, A Inglis, K Greggain, J Clipston,
P Rogers, S McNee. Reps: N Sloan, J Musset, T Smith.
IRVINE -- C Hobson; C Lang, K Lang, R Filander, N McMillan; R Bryan, R McVey;
D Kirkwood, M Kirk, E Callaghan, A Thomson, R O'Neill, A Lang, C Maxwell,
I Speirs. Reps: D Moffat, K Hobson, M Sneddon, G Gibson.
REFEREE -- Duncan McClement
Updated 11:14 - 18 Mar 2013 by Derek Murdoch