This afternoon at Kingspan Stadium Ulster outplayed interprovincial rivals Leinster to set up a grandstand finish for the 2015/16 Guinness PRO12, strengthening their grip on fourth place - where only Scarlets can usurp them should Les Kiss's men fail to win next week at the Ospreys.
Paddy Jackson ran the show from out-half, scoring the third try and contributing 11 points from the boot, after a first-half penalty try and a Jared Payne score in the second period had effectively sealed Leinster's fate.
While by no means an interpro classic, the match had enough needle, determination and craft to enthral a capacity Kingspan Stadium, and set up for an intriguing final round of the competition proper, with Leinster on 68 points guaranteed a play-off spot, while Ulster, on 64, will be looking over their shoulders at fifth-placed Scarlets, sitting on 58 in advance of their evening kick-off against Newport-Gwent Dragons.
Ulster lined up with eight full Irish internationals in their starting XV - two fewer than the number in the Leinster ranks - with Payne at full-back, Andrew Trimble and Rory Scholes on the wings, Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey in the centre, and the first-choice half-back tandem of Jackson and Ruan Pienaar.
Upfront captain Rory Best led from hooker, propped by Callum Black and Ricky Lutton ahead of Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe in the second row. Iain Henderson and Chris Henry flanked Sean Reidy in the Number Eight shirt, with a similarly stellar bench featuring the likes of Rob Herring, Robbie Diack, Stuart Olding and Darren Cave.
Conspicuous by their absence were Tommy Bowe, nursing a mild knee complaint after his two-try return to the first team against Zebre, Craig Gilroy, a late withdrawal through illness, and the unfortunate Nick Williams, whose shoulder injury rules him out for the rest of the season - a sad farewell from Belfast for the Cardiff-bound fan favourite.
Any doubts there may have been about the intensity of the encounter were put to bed early with a flattening tackle from Trimble on Rob Kearney as the visiting full-back collected a high ball in his own '22', followed on the five-minute mark by some sparring between the same player and Scholes.
Obstruction on Trimble gave Jackson the first points on 12 minutes, and Ulster continued to show the slicker handiwork with a right-wing exchange between Jackson, Payne and Trimble mesmeric, before Pienaar broke through on goal on 17 minutes, chasing his own chip only for that man Kearney to stoop into his path for an intentional block which left the Springbok requiring treatment.
After some deliberation referee George Clancy sent Kearney to the sinbin and awarded the penalty try for the professional foul, Jackson adding the extras for a deserved 10-point lead.
The concession stirred a reaction from the Leinstermen, for whom Sexton clipped over a tricky penalty just before Kearney retook the field, then another five minutes from the break. The half then closed with yet another bone-cruncher from Trimble - poor Garry Ringrose this time the recipient - and some staunch Ulster defence on their five-metre line.
Half-Time Score Ulster 10 Leinster 6
Another chip-and-chase - this time from Jackson, grounded by Luke McGrath behind his line - got Ulster a five-metre scrum early in the second period, but as Leinster wrenched back possession a fine run from Ben Te'o brought play well into their opponents' half, where Isa Nacewa looked dangerous until he was unceremoniously dumped into touch on the right wing.
Back on the attack on 53 minutes, Ulster were denied another try-scoring chance when Luke Fitzgerald - only on the field a matter of moments - held back Scholes as the wing shaped to pick up Stuart McCloskey's pass in the '22'. As Fitzgerald trudged off to the bin, Jackson held his nerve to extend the lead to seven.
The killer blow came two minutes before the hour, Jackson carving out a gap for Marshall who found Payne's diagonal run for a neat try in the corner, converted once again.
A third Jackson penalty 10 minutes from time cast Leinster further adrift, and the out-half capped a rarely-bettered display with two minutes to go as he seized on a loose Leinster ball in his own half and outpaced three chasers in an exhilarating dash for the line and the third try.
Full-Time Score Ulster 30 Leinster 6
(15 - 9) Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar
(1 - 8) Callum Black, Rory Best (c), Ricky Lutton, Pete Browne, Franco van der Merwe, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Sean Reidy
Replacements (16 - 23) Rob Herring, Kyle McCall, Andrew Warwick, Robbie Diack, Roger Wilson, Paul Marshall, Stuart Olding, Darren Cave
(15 - 9) Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Garry Ringrose, Ben Te'o, Dave Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath
(1 - 8) Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Tadgh Furlong, Devin Toner, Hayden Triggs, Rhys Ruddck, Josh Van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip (c)
Replacements (16 - 23) Sean Cronin, Peter Dooley, Mike Ross, Mick Kearney, Jordi Murphy, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald