Cardiff Blues took a critical step towards Heineken Cup rugby next season with a 19-9 win over Ulster in Cardiff on Friday.
It was the Irish province's indiscipline, however, which cost them dearly in a dour encounter, the game's only try coming when they were reduced to 13 men.
For New Zealander Xavier Rush, it at least meant victory in his 100th appearance for the Blues before he joins Ulster for next season.
The first half was a mish-mash of aimless kicking and handling errors.
Blues full-back Ben Blair and Ulster fly-half Niall O'Connor exchanged early penalties - each missed one as well - but there was precious little excitement for the disappointing crowd.
Ulster's strength at scrum and breakdown gave them most of the territory, while Blues centres Casey Laulala and Tom Shanklin produced the only real breaks, before Wales international Shanklin suffered a knock after half an hour and was forced to leave the field.
The Blues were rewarded for their greater ambition when Blair kicked two more penalties just before the break.
There was some more urgency about the home side's play on the restart, with prop Taufa'ao Filise leading the way, but it was Ulster who claimed the first points in the second period when O'Connor kicked a mighty penalty from halfway.
Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny was short with an attempt from even further as the boot continued to dominate, and Blair missed another after Ulster saw lock Ryan Caldwell dispatched to the sin-bin for handling in the ruck.
Blair struck a post from long range before Ulster had a second player yellow-carded, centre Darren Cave going for a blatant trip in midfield.
The visitors were doubly punished, Blair sending the resultant penalty to the corner and replacement flanker Maama Molitika crashing over from the line-out. Blair converted.
Molitika was held up just short as the Blues tried to capitalise on their two extra men, but it was Ulster who scored next with another long-range kick from O'Connor.
Blair kicked his fourth penalty just as Ulster were returned to full strength, and the game stuttered to its conclusion.
For the Blues:
Pens: Blair 4
Pens: O'Connor 3
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tom Shanklin, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Scott Morgan, 3 Taufa'au Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Scott Andrews, 18 Andries Pretorius, 19 Maama Molitika, 20 Gareth Cooper, 21 Sam Norton-Knight/Dai Flanagan, 22 Dafydd Hewitt.
Ulster: 15 Jamie Smith, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Chris Henry (capt), 7 David Pollock, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Brendan Botha, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Declan Fitzpatrick, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Michael Heaney, 21 Ian Humphreys, 22 Timoci Nagusa.
Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Jon Mason (WRU), Simon Harris (WRU)
TMO: Neil Ballard (WRU)