Ulster came agonisingly close to a famous victory this afternoon at Thomond Park, eventually going down by two points in a game they had led at four separate stages thanks to tries from Rory Best and Luke Marshall, and 10 points from Paddy Jackson's boot.
The losing bonus point elevates Les Kiss's side back into fourth place in the Guinness Pro12 on 64 points, one ahead of Scarlets who play later today, and - crucially - a single point behind Ospreys, whose surprise defeat in Cardiff today will make the Ulster trip to Swansea in two weeks' time a veritable crunch encounter.
The victory guarantees Munster a play-off place along with interprovincial rivals Leinster, with the chasing pack of Ospreys, Ulster, Scarlets and Glasgow Warriors vying for the final two slots.
Two changes to the starting backline from last Friday's draw with Cardiff Blues brought in the versatile Jacob Stockdale at full-back in place of the injured Jared Payne, and captain Andrew Trimble to the right wing berth, relegating Craig Gilroy to the bench.
Otherwise Ulster were unchanged from 13 to nine, with the centre partnership of Marshall and Stuart Olding, Charles Piutau on the left wing, and the Jackson - Ruan Pienaar tandem continuing in the half-back slots.
Chris Henry was the sole addition to the pack at flanker, lining up behind a front row of Andrew Warwick, Best and Wiehahn Herbst, and a second row comprising Alan O'Connor and Kieran Treadwell. Iain Henderson started at the base of the scrum alongside Henry, with Sean Reidy moving to Number Eight in place of Roger Wilson.
Ulster enjoyed the better of a competitive first half and could count themselves unlucky to be switching ends only on level pegging, with a combination of handling errors from the visitors and a marked improvement from the Munstermen letting the hosts back in just before the break.
Tensions took little time to reach a head as Reidy and his opposite number Jack O'Donoghue squared up within three minutes, but Ulster kept their focus and a strong rolling maul from the lineout let Best in for an early try, converted by Jackson.
Munster hit back hard and soon, Peter O'Mahony selling Piutau a dummy to create the space for Ulster loanee scrum-half Angus Lloyd to slide over, Keatley's conversion restoring parity on eight minutes.
Jackson's penalty kept the pressure on after a Munster offside, and as the visitors refused to relent with a high defence line keeping the Munstermen pinned in their own half, the out-half was unfortunate to miss the posts slotted on 20 minutes with Billy Holland pulled up for a high tackle on Stockdale.
Good scavenging from Henderson at the next Munster scrum set up the next Ulster raid, and as Munster infringed again yet another rolling maul took Ulster to metres from the line before faultless commitment from the hosts eventually won the turnover.
The travelling fans were disappointed to see Henry limp off just before the half-hour, replaced by Clive Ross, as the tide began to tangibly turn and a collapsed scrum allowed Keatley to level matters at 10 - 10 three minutes from the break.
Half-Time Score Munster 10 Ulster 10
A Stockdale interception got Ulster moving early in the second period, and the same player thought he had his name on the scoresheet moments later as he cut a fantastic line onto Marshall's pass, only for the TMO to call the centre's offload as forward.
Stuart McCloskey, on for Olding on 50 minutes for his first appearance since injury in February, made his presence felt straight away with a typically barging run through the middle, and as Trimble eluded Simon Zebo before forcing the infringement in front of the posts, Jackson nudged his side back in front with 25 minutes remaining.
With Rob Herring and Gilroy among the ranks for the final 20 minutes in place of Best and Piutau, Ulster were powerless to stop flying centre Francis Saili, who deftly avoided three tackles to pick out Keith Earls for the try on 62 minutes.
Replacement out-half Tyler Bleyendaal's conversion missed, however, and a Pienaar charge-down shortly after the restart laid the foundations for a superb team try three minutes later, Marshall finishing the move after more bulldozing from McCloskey and the killer flat pass from Jackson.
The Ulster out-half succeeded where his opposite number had failed moments earlier, leaving his side with a five-point cushion with a quarter of an hour to play.
The lead lasted a mere five minutes, replacement lock Dave O'Callaghan stretching over after a protracted Munster rolling maul, and as Bleyendaal's conversion this time split the posts, Ulster still had plenty to do to come away with more than the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Camped in the Munster half with five minutes to go, Ulster probed and prodded, but a Herring lineout overthrow and a Henderson knock-on gnawed away at the clock, and the Limerick men wisely took their time at their put-in to the scrum, before a knock-on of their own gave Ulster one final chance.
As the clock hit red Pienaar found Jackson for an all-or-nothing drop goal attempt, but a tricky angle and the approach of a horde of Munster runners saw the out-half's kick spin well wide.
Ulster's campaign continues with the visit to Ospreys on Saturday 29 April, before welcoming league leaders Leinster to Kingspan Stadium on Saturday 6 May.
Full-Time Score Munster 22 Ulster 20
Munster (15 - 9) Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Angus Lloyd
(1 - 8) Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (c), Tommy O'Donnell, Jack O'Donoghue
Replacements (16 - 23) Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O'Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Abrie Griesel, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andrew Conway
Ulster (15 - 9) Jacob Stockdale; Andrew Trimble (c), Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Charles Piutau; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar
(1 - 8) Andrew Warwick, Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O'Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Sean Reidy
Replacements (16 - 23) Rob Herring, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You, Robbie DIack, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy