This afternoon at Kingspan Stadium the form book was turned on its head as Munster, winless in five, edged out a hitherto resurgent Ulster in a tight interprovincial clash.
Coming into the encounter on the back of four consecutive victories, Ulster led for more than half an hour thanks to Louis Ludik's try, but were left to rue a scoreless second half and two missed penalties from Paddy Jackson, as two penalties and a drop goal from Ian Keatley proved just enough to nudge the visitors above them to fourth in the table.
It was a disappointing end to Ulster's recent run of results, and an unfortunate outcome on the occasion of Andrew Trimble's record-breaking 200th appearance for his province.
Four changes upfront brought Kyle McCall and Rory Best back into the front row alongside Wiehahn Herbst after enjoying a Boxing Day rest against Connacht, while Lewis Stevenson made a rare start in the second row next to Franco van der Merwe. In the back row, Chris Henry recovered from a recent shoulder injury to line up with Robbie Diack either side of last week's match-winner Nick Williams.
The backline remained unchanged, with a back three of Ludik, history man Trimble and Rory Scholes, the centre partnership of Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloksey, and the half-back tandem of Jackson and Ruan Pienaar.
Munster started on the front foot, hovering on the Ulster '22' for a good five minutes until full-back Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino was unceremoniously dumped into touch ball in hand by the entire Ulster back row. But a handling error at the lineout gifted possession back to the Munstermen, soon recipients of a penalty which out-half Keatley kicked over for the first points.
An expansive move straight off the training ground soon had Scholes tearing down the left wing in pursuit of his own kick and, after a stoppage which saw Pienaar square up to half of the Munster team following an incident which had gone unnoticed by referee Gary Conway, only a fantastic 40-metre chase and tackle from Trimble as Rory Scannell broke free prevented a Munster try.
As play poured back down the other end, telling upper body strength from Marshall, Jackson and McCloskey got Ulster close to the line three times in as many minutes before Ludik picked up from Pienaar and dove over from short range, his score converted by Jackson.
Ulster came again straight from the restart, but contrived to waste several promising positions with poor handling, allowing Munster to close out the period in safe possession.
Half-Time Score Ulster 7 Munster 3
An exhilarating run off his wing from Scholes, followed by a great aerial take from Trimble, got Ulster off to a promising start to the second half, but an overthrow at a 53rd-minute lineout set the wheels in motion for a prolonged spell of Munster possession, culminating in Keatley's drop goal on 58 minutes to bring his side to within a point of their hosts.
Side entry from replacement prop Ricky Lutton then allowed the out-half to edge the visitors into the lead on the hour mark, and as Amorosino fumbled forward Jackson's kick to touch moments later, a collapsed scrum from BJ Botha saw the Ulster ten's penalty from wide on the left drop literally millimetres the wrong side of the crossbar.
With only 10 minutes left to salvage a win, Ulster found themselves bogged down defending deep in their own half, winning the ball back on 74 minutes courtesy of a Munster knock-on. However with the visitors holding a high line which they were unable to break through, Les Kiss' side had to wait until minute 78 for their chance - but Jackson's penalty from 40 metres wide on the left again fell short, leaving Ulster with nothing more than a losing bonus point.
The interprovincial rivals now sit fourth and fifth in the Guinness Pro12 standings on 32 points each, with the domestic league taking a break as Ulster aim to secure European Champions Cup progression with games away to Oyonnax and Saracens before their final pool game at home to the French outfit.
Full-Time Score Ulster 7 Munster 9
Ulster (15 - 9) Louis Ludik; Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar
(1 - 8) Kyle McCall, Rory Best (c), Wiehahn Herbst, Lewis Stevenson, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams
Replacements (16 - 23) Rob Herring, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Alan O'Connor, Roger Wilson, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Sam Arnold
Munster (15 - 9) Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; Gerhard van der Heever, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Ronan O'Mahony; Ian Keatley, Tomas O'Leary
(1 - 8) Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Mark Chisholm, Jack O'Donoghue, Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander
Replacements (16 - 23) Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Mario Sagario, Shane Buckley, Robin Copeland, Duncan Williams, Tyler Bleyendaal, Denis Hurley