A third straight win in the Guinness PRO14 shot Ulster to the top of Conference B, although they flattered to deceive at times against an ill-disciplined Southern Kings.
It took a strong rally in the final quarter - for the third successive week - to get Ulster over the line with three tries to secure victory from a game they admittedly never looked like losing.
John Cooney had kicked three penalties for a 9-0 lead, and also had a try chalked off after Alan O’Connor unnecessarily shoulder charged at the ruck prior to the scrumhalf crossing.
By that stage the Kings, who had conceded seven penalties, were down to 14 men having had backrow Tiseme Burger binned.
Cooney was then forced off with a head wound on 32 minutes and Dave Shanahan never set the side alight.
PRO14 organisers may well look at their referees list again after a poor display from the inexperienced Simon Grove White.
Southern Kings conceded 14 penalties in the first half and a further six in the second but it was Ulster who had two players in the sin-bin - O’Connor and Rob Herring, to Kings’ one.
The stop - start nature of the game did not help Ulster as they tried to play an up tempo and expansive game.
But it was a lack of a clinical edge at times which gave some concern again for onlookers.
And that was not missed by head coach Dan McFarland afterwards.
While he was not prepared to be pushed too far on the referee’s performance, he said ‘it was the way it was’ and his players had to be able to deal with it.
“We simply have to be more ruthless in what we are doing if we want to take advantage of the dominance we had in terms of, possession, territory and line breaks in the first half then we have to be more ruthless.
“It is difficult when there are a lot of infringements in the game, but it is up to us to make our dominance count.
“That is an area I have said before we have to improve at. I actually do believe we are improving and there was some better work done today.
“But when we came into the game we were fully aware that the Kings turn over a lot of ball at the breakdown. They turned over the second most in the league last year which probably a lot of people do not know. Only Cardiff were better than them at turning ball over at the breakdown.
“They put a lot of people into that and manage to slow the ball down.
“On our side, we need to be better in terms of our ball placement but also in our speed to contact. In the first half our attack was limited because the ball carrier was on his own on a couple of occasions, meaning we were slow to the clear out and it meant our ball got slowed down and John (Cooney) was not able to play at the temp he wanted to.”
Ulster will monitor Cooney over the next couple of days after he required stitches to a head wound and Will Addison is expected to fully recover from illness.