Two tries in the space of three first half minutes from Simon Danielli set the hosts on their way to a narrow but deserved win, with Munster's away day blues continuing - the league title holders have only won once away from home in this season's competition.
Ireland internationals Stephen Ferris, Tom Court and Andrew Trimble, who sat out the Leinster game, all played central roles as Ulster began 2010 on a winning note.
Ferris put in some thumping tackles and carried with brute force, Court used his strength to excel in the scrum and Trimble troubled the Munster defence in open play and impressed under the high ball.
Munster, who were missing a raft of internationals, had enough possession and territory to turn over the home side but Jean de Villiers' score, late in the first half, proved to be their only try.
Paul Warwick, filling in for Ronan O'Gara at out-half, kicked a penalty and a conversion, but the Australian struggled to maintain his usual high standards and missed the only penalty kick of the entire second half.
The defeat robbed Munster of a chance to move into second place in the league table and prolonged their poor recent record in Belfast - they have only won once at Ravenhill since 2004.
The visitors put huge pressure on Ulster in the opening ten minutes and should have scored through stand-in captain Mick O'Driscoll. However, the big lock spilled the ball as he drove towards the line and BJ Botha regained it for Ulster who quickly regrouped.
Having defended strongly, Ulster managed to break the scoring deadlock in the 11th minute, with a well-struck penalty goal from out-half Ian Humphreys after Munster number 8 James Coughlan had infringed.
Brian McLaughlin's men established some dominance at set piece time, with Court putting his Ireland colleague Tony Buckley under some pressure in the scrum.
And as the first quarter came to a close, Munster conceded a soft first try when Warwick's attempted chip kick was half-blocked by Paddy Wallace, Danielli outjumped Doug Howlett for the dropping ball and the big Scottish winger scooted up the left touchline to go over unopposed.
Humphreys clipped over the conversion for good measure and the Ulster faithful were celebrating a second try just three minutes later.
Trimble was the creator as he came into the attacking line at pace, stepping off his left and evading a tackle from de Villiers before he delivered a sweet pass out to the left for Danielli to gather and race through to complete his brace and stretch Ulster's advantage to 15-0.
Humphreys failed to land the resulting conversion, and Munster, under O'Driscoll's command, made a strong effort to claw their way back into the game. They were not helped by the injury-enforced withdrawal of flanker Niall Ronan.
Tony McGahan's side missed out on a try off a superb surging run from Coughlan, who left his opposite number Chris Henry standing with a neat step. The follow-up work was good but Buckley was stopped just short of the whitewash by a shuddering hit from Ferris.
But the visiting supporters had something to shout about just before the interval. Lifeimi Mafi broke inside the hosts' 22, Humphreys ripped the ball free only for it to go loose, allowing de Villiers to hare onto it and break free to score close to the posts.
Warwick easily converted the South African's third try in as many games and he tagged on a late penalty to close the gap to 15-10 for half-time.
A series of errors from Munster, with Peter Stringer's wayward pass put Warwick and Denis Hurley under pressure, almost handed Ulster their third try on a plate. Isaac Boss got close to scoring under the posts but referee Dudley Phillips ruled that the diving Wallace had knocked on just beforehand.
Ulster were then whistled up for a scrum offence, losing a decent attacking opportunity to put the visitors under more pressure in the set piece.
The second half turned into a real war of attrition as play was confined to the middle third of the pitch and the sides kept it tight and any ambitious play came from deep.
Munster worked a penalty chance for Warwick, with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, but his 40-metre effort bounced back off the right-hand post and Ulster's line remained intact.
The men in white had to survive a late onslaught from the reigning champions as they sent a kickable penalty to touch, setting up a potential lineout catch and drive - a ploy that worked well for them in their bonus point win over Connacht last time out.
Ulster, though, remained resilient and their committed defence, with Ferris, Dan Tuohy and Court standing tall, made sure Munster emerged with just a losing bonus point from a typically robust interprovincial tie.
Speaking after the game, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin, whose side are now up to sixth in the standings, said: "We started quite well, getting a turnover try and then Simon Danielli completed a nice move. We were very pleased at that stage.
"As the game went on it got uglier and uglier and I'm delighted we hung on and got the points.
"We defended well at times around the pitch. We were rugged in the last 10 minutes with our defence excellent.
"There were a lot of plus points but it was not an ideal performance by any means."
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Munster Rugby Score Card|
|Jean de Villiers||1||5|