Delon Armitage kicked a huge penalty from inside his own half to clinch victory for London Irish in their Heineken Cup clash with Munster.
Fly-half Ryan Lamb did the damage with 15 points during the first half, but just when Irish needed to break Munster's growing momentum, up stepped England full-back Armitage to raise the roof. Sam Tuitupou scored a late try to snatch a losing bonus point which could prove priceless later on in the competition.
Munster's first competitive visit to the Madejski Stadium guaranteed a rocking atmosphere as the two-time former champions turned up with their usual army of supporters to help form a 20,000-plus crowd. And with contrasting styles, the Pool Three contest had all the makings of a classic cup tie between the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders and the team on top of the Magners League.
The crowd and teams began the occasion by giving a one-minute standing ovation in celebration of the life of the Lions and Ireland forward Moss Keane who died during the week, aged 62.
Munster were first on the scoreboard after Irish were penalised at the breakdown. Ronan O'Gara fired over the penalty, the 75th consecutive Heineken Cup tie in which he has scored. Ryan Lamb equalised in the eighth minute, slotting over a penalty from more than 40 metres out. And Lamb eased Irish into the lead with another kick from a similar position three minutes later.
Munster responded by powering up the middle via Peter Stringer and O'Gara's passing. It took a big tackle by Armitage to force Doug Howlett in touch. Niall Ronan was penalised by referee Christophe Berdos for hands in a ruck and Lamb elected to kick for touch. Irish drove the won lineout and Munster immediately offended to stop the threat, presenting Lamb with another kick at goal.
Irish led 9-3, despite spending most of the first quarter producing solid tackles. The worst tackle of the half, however, was produced by Munster centre Tuitupou who spear-tackled Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson in the 23rd minute, firing him into the ground head-first. Hodgson required treatment and his assailant was sent to the sin bin.
It looked deliberate and therefore a red-card offence, but brought only a yellow. Despite having a man in the bin and another, Denis Leamy, being treated on the floor, Munster managed to halt a high-tempo attack by turning the ball over outside their 22.
But just when it seemed Irish would fail to score while Munster were down to 14, Lamb arrowed over a tidy 33rd minute drop-goal after a strong break by Elvis Seveali'i, the last action before Munster were back to 15 men.
Lamb made it five goals out of five attempts four minutes from half-time, but Munster worked their way back and Armitage was penalised for a swinging high arm tackle, presenting O'Gara with a straightforward second goal. Seconds from the interval, Hodgson fired out a flat pass from a lineout on the left and Lamb's attempted drop-goal drifted wide.
Irish scored a stunning try 34 seconds into the second half. Johne Murphy lobbed a short-range pass to his left only to see it fly straight into the hands of Topsy Ojo who raced from inside his half to score on the right. Lamb's conversion went wide, as did a penalty attempt by O'Gara in the 43rd minute.
Munster pinned Irish down for most of what followed Ojo's intercept try, but had to wait until the 55th minute for O'Gara to chip three points off their deficit with a penalty.
And they kicked for touch rather than try for another three points, setting up a siege on the Irish line involving seven separate phases. But Irish tackled with raw passion until the ball squirted forward out of Munster hands in a cluster of bodies inches from the line.
The next time Munster got a penalty, however, they were less adventurous. O'Gara thumped it home to reduce the Irish lead to eight points in the 69th minute.
The first time Irish threatened since Ojo's try came in the 72nd minute. A penalty from a yard inside their own half was out of Lamb's range. But Delon Armitage stepped up and boomed it home.