Ulster’s winning run in this season’s Magners League was ended by Connacht as the Irish rivals played out a dogged draw at the Sportsground.
Ian Keatley's 74th-minute penalty gave Connacht a deserved share of the spoils in a tight, tryless affair. Keatley kicked five penalties for the hosts, while Paddy Wallace (four penalties) and replacement Niall O'Connor booted Ulster's points.
Neither side had a prolonged period of dominance or a clearcut try-scoring chance, with defences on top throughout this scrappy interprovincial derby.
There were some mouth-watering individual battles in the mix, including Ulster captain Rory Best up against Sean Cronin and league top scorer Keatley taking on the versatile Wallace.
Connacht were unchanged from last weekend's famous win in Glasgow, while Ulster made four changes – three up front – to the side that started against Edinburgh last time out.
Missed kicks to touch and turnovers prevented Ulster from profiting from some early possession, and a steal by Mike McComish close to the Connacht try-line relieved the pressure after an Andrew Trimble run.
A feature of the opening quarter was Connacht's aggressive defence, and Gavin Duffy's assuredness at full-back was also a plus point for the home side.
Ulster had to cope with the early injury-enforced loss of flanker Stephen Ferris, which would have caused concern for watching Ireland coach Declan Kidney.
The game's first turning point arrived in the 17th minute when Connacht flanker Ray Ofisa was harshly sin-binned for a trip on the advancing Trimble, and Wallace knocked over the penalty from the ten-metre line.
Connacht quickly got back on terms, with Keatley punishing Pedrie Wannenburg for going offside, and the playing numbers were levelled up when Ulster lost recent signing Paul Emerick to the sin-bin.
Connacht found some space on the left to unleash Fionn Carr who was floored by Emerick's shoulder charge as he chased his own chip. The USA international was shown an immediate yellow card and Keatley swung over the resulting penalty from a tight angle for 6-3.
Another kick through from Carr forced Paul Marshall to concede a five-metre scrum. The westerners launched a series of pick and goes, but a turnover from Bryan Young helped the visitors clear their lines.
Wallace squared things up with his second successful penalty, after Bernie Upton was pinged for a tackle infringement, and 6-6 is how it remained for the break, as both Keatley and Wallace missed late efforts on goal.
The addition of Springbok BJ Botha to the Ulster front row helped win an early penalty on the restart, which Wallace threaded through the uprights.
Connacht responded well, their forwards making headway to set up Keatley for his third penalty goal.
The final quarter was a real arm wrestle. Ulster looked to be getting on top in the scrum and a set piece infringement allowed Wallace move his side back ahead at 12-9.
Wallace then sent Darren Cave darting through a midfield gap, but moments later Ulster's good approach work was spoiled by Trimble taking out McComish in the air as he gathered a high ball. Referee Alain Rolland reached for his yellow card and it was Connacht's turn to claw back territory.
Keatley showed two nice pieces of skill, the first a slashing break down the right and the second a well-struck penalty, to draw Connacht level once again.
Ulster manufactured two more penalties, with Carr the guilty party on both occasions. Replacement O'Connor landed the first from long range, but his second strike faded to the right and wide.
It looked like Brian McLaughlin's men would hold on to register their fourth straight win of the campaign.
Keatley had other ideas, however, and his composed 40-metre kick reeled Ulster back in for the final time, with the visitors' last scoring opportunity a hurried drop goal attempt from O'Connor.