Lasith Malinga's four-wicket haul and Dinesh Chandimal's 50 from 39 balls helped Sri Lanka down UAE by 14 runs in their Asia Cup opener in Dhaka.
Chandimal hit seven fours and a six from the top of the order to record his second half-century in T20Is before Sri Lanka, the reigning World T20 and Asia Cup champions, laboured to 129-8.
Skipper Malinga (4-26) then struck twice in his first over and collected two wickets towards the death as UAE, who qualified for the tournament proper by beating Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Oman, were restricted to 115-9.
Chandimal and Tillakaratne Dilshan (27) put on 68 for Sri Lanka's first wicket but the innings stumbled once Dilshan, who took blows on the finger and helmet in addition to clubbing four boundaries, skewed the first delivery of the 10th over to midwicket.
Chandimal perished one ball after reaching fifty as UAE skipper Amjad Javed claimed 3-23, spinner Ahmed Raza shipped just 14 runs from his four overs and Sri Lanka lost eight wickets for 61, Angelo Mathews (8) among the batsmen to fall cheaply.
Malinga, though, back in the side after recovering from a knee injury he picked up late last year, made breakthroughs with his first and sixth deliveries and when Nuwan Kulasekara (3-10) picked up two scalps in the fourth over, UAE slipped to 16-4.
Wicketkeeper Swapnil Patel (37 from 36) dragged UAE back into the game by sharing stands of 22 with Shaiman Anwar (13) and 38 with Javed (12), but his exit in the 17th over, caught and bowled by Malinga, proved crucial.
The Associate nation - who failed to reach next month's World T20 after finishing 13th out of 14 teams in qualifying - are back in action on Friday against Asia Cup hosts Bangladesh, with Saturday's game seeing India battle Pakistan.