A late drop-goal from Ruan Pienaar sealed an epic 25-23 victory for Ulster as they denied a spirited Dragons side in Belfast on Friday.
An 80th-minute drop-goal from Ruan Pienaar sealed a dramatic 25-23 win for Ulster as they held off a spirited Dragons outfit at Ravenhill on Friday.
Despite a superb second-half display from the Dragons, it wasn't enough, as scrum-half Pienaar held his nerve to send the Irish side into the top four.
It's a hammer blow for Dragons coach Darren Edwards who had stated his desire before the match to take the job full-time.
And with two games in hand, Newport were looking to take advantage, but they got off to the worst possible start when Ulster centre Luke Marshall fed fellow three-quarter Nevin Spence who touched down under the posts for a converted try.
However, the away side hit back. Fly-half Jason Tovey's speculative chip-kick wasn't cleanly collected by full-back Adam D'Arcy and Tovey followed up to go over.
The stand-off missed the chance to add the extra two points and Pienaar then extended the home side's lead with a penalty to take it to 10-5 at half-time.
It was the Dragons who started the second period the brighter and flanker Lewis Evans burrowed over, replacement kicker Adam Hughes converting.
Newport continued the pressure and added to their lead when winger Aled Brew broke through some weak tackling.
But Ulster responded through winger Tommy Seymour before substitute Matthew Jones booted a penalty for the Dragons.
Centre Darren Cave looked to have won it for the hosts when he powered through for a converted try but Tovey slotted a drop goal to regain the lead for the Dragons.
However, it was left to Pienaar to kick a dramatic late score.
Tries: Spence, Seymour, Cave
Con: Pienaar 2
Tries: Tovey, Evans, Brew
Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Conor Gaston, 13 Nevin Spence, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Chris Henry, 5 Tim Barker, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Bryan Young, 18 Jerry Cronin, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Pedrie Wannenburg, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Tommy Seymour.
Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Will Harries, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Pat Leach, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Adam Jones, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Dan Way, 3 Lloyd Burns, 2 Phil Price.
Replacements:16 Steve Jones, 17 Pat Palmer, 18 Hugh Gustafson, 19 Adam Brown, 20 Toby Faletau, 21 Tom Riley, 22 James Leadbeater, 23 Matthew Jones.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)