Ulster held off a late challenge from Cardiff Blues to win 24-17 on Friday, handing the Welsh region their fourth straight PRO12 defeat.
Ulster's superb performance either side of the break saw them take advantage of Josh Turnbull's yellow card, with tries from Andrew Trimble, Paul Marshall and Nick Williams followed up by a fourth from Stuart McCloskey as the hosts took full control.
Josh Navidi grabbed what looked a consolation after a yellow was issued to Wiehahn Herbst, and despite a whole load of late pressure, Ulster saw the victory out.
It took Blues just three minutes to open the scoring for the evening, with Rhys Patchell sending through a straight forward penalty after an offence at the scrum as the visitors put together some early pressure at the Kingspan.
A quiet spell ensued for the next 15 minutes or so until the hosts sparked into life and took the advantage when Trimble went through for the first try. The TMO had a look at it originally, but after giving the all clear, Ian Humphreys couldn't add the extras as a tight scoreline reflected a tight first 20 minutes.
The lead couldn't be held for too long though, as Patchell's second penalty (from all of 40 metres) snuck Cardiff into a one point lead.
And he repeated the feat in a superb half of kicking from the number 10, firing three more through four minutes before the break as Cardiff looked to take a lead into half-time.
But in overtime of the first half, Ulster struck again. With Blues looking to see out the half, a wayward boot from Turnbull saw him sent to the bin, and the extra man of Ulster told immediately. McCloskey's wonderful build up play eventually fed Marshall, and from close range he drove himself over, Humphreys converting as Ulster were the ones taking a three point lead into the break.
And with Turnbull still off the field, Ulster capitalised again with their third try of an impressive night. An almighty heave forward led to Williams taking hold of the ball and grounding over the line, a brilliant try from the Ulster pack added to by Humphreys' conversion.
McCloskey seemed to wrap up the game minutes later with the hosts fourth try and no less than the 12 deserved.
It was then the turn of the home side to lose a man though, Herbst having a 10 minute cool off after slowing down play.
And much like Ulster did, Cardiff took confidence from the extra man and Navidi went over for a wonderful opening try of the night from Blues. The Blues captain squeezed himself over in the corner when it looked an improbable task as the game sparked back to life, though Patchell's miss from the conversion attempt kept a 10 point gap between the two.
Patchell reduced the scoreline to within a converted try though with another penalty, as a game that looked dead suddenly took an intriguing twist. Aled Summerhill was shown the third yellow of the game with five minutes to go, putting a huge dent into the chance of turning the tie around.
And despite late pressure, a loss of possession allowed Ulster to kick into touch and secure a nerve-wracking win.
Tries: Trimble, Marshall, Williams, McCloskey
Con: Humphreys 2
For Cardiff Blues:
Pen: Patchell 3
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Peter Browne, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Darren Cave.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Adam Thomas, 11 Richard Smith, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Josh Navidi (c), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Cam Dolan, 5 James Down, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Chris Dicomidis, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Garyn Smith.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, Paul Haycock (both IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)