Ulster made it four wins on the bounce after they inflicted this first home defeat this season on Connacht at The Sportsground, Galway, on Boxing Day.
A try from Nick Williams four minutes from the end sealed a deserved win for Ulster after a tight Irish derby clash with the Westerners.
Outhalf Paddy Jackson, who added the extras to the try, had given Ulster a 3-0 interval lead with a 32nd minute penalty.
Connacht failed to take advantage of Luke Marshall’s 58th minute sin-binning but they did level on 63 minutes when Alan MacGinty slotted over a penalty.
But it was left to man of the match Williams to plough over on 76 minutes and seal the win.
It pushed Ulster up to third in the table, but they dropped back to fourth place after Leinster’s win over Munster in Limerick on Sunday night.
However, they are right where they wanted to be at the end of the year, four points behind leaders Scarlets and three adrift of second placed Connacht.
It also ended December on a high with four wins from four, including the double over Toulouse in the European Champions Cup.
A delighted director of rugby, Les Kiss, admitted it had been a good month for the side.
However he added: “It is important to understand why these things are happening.
“We are trying to grow every week in the battles that we have.
“There is a great appetite for the players to work on the tactical shifts that have been made and to be build a bit more resilience and composure in the key moments.
“At the moment you would have to be pleased that we are delivering on that.
“We are not perfect by any means, our breakdown work tonight wasn’t where it needs to be.
“A couple of other areas of the game that we pride ourselves that we need to keep working on.
“But overall to manage a game like that and get a win you have got to be happy.”
Kiss added the quality didn’t always match the effort on show, but was thrilled to take away a victory.
“We didn’t expect this to be easy and it wasn’t but it’s nice to come out the other side with the win,” Kiss said.
“I thought the defence was very good. At times we gave them a bit of access in the wide channels but overall our work ethos was vital.
“It was a game where both sides had ambition and intent, but both were guilty of their skills not matching that ambition. Nick Williams is a great rugby player. He’s got a lot of heart and soul.”
Munster visit the Kingspan Stadium on 2 January, and Kiss is braced for another bruising encounter.
“Munster is going to be a torrid affair,” he said.
“They beat us last time; we know that they’re a team that are probably hurting at the moment and want to get a result – hopefully they get that result against Leinster and we haven’t got a dangerous beast the following week!”