Thirteen-man Munster survived a frantic finish in the Guinness Pro 14 top of the table clash to emerge as breathless 16-10 winners over Connacht at the Sportsground.

A last-gasp match-winning try eluded the home side, who came right back into contention late on through Peter Sullivan's 78th-minute try and sin-bins for Munster replacement backs Rory Scannell and Nick McCarthy.

The visiting side were in a commanding position entering the closing stages, having restricted the westerners to just three points - a Jack Carty penalty on the stroke of half-time - even as the clock passed 78 minutes. 

Munster established a 10-0 lead in the opening quarter. JJ Hanrahan kicked off the scoring with a penalty, after Connacht hooker Shane Delahunt had been sin-binned for collapsing a menacing Munster line-out maul, which had ground its way inside the home side's 22. 

Five minutes later, Johann Van Graan's team registered what was to prove their only try of the game. James Cronin executed a turnover on halfway, Hanrahan found touch with the resultant penalty. Peter O'Mahony claimed the line-out, setting the scene for another text-book rolling maul. 

After pummeling away at the Connacht rearguard for a few phases, centre Chris Farrell dived through a gap for the away team's critical score of the game. 

Given their 59 per cent share of possession across the opening 40 minutes, the westerners needed points and got them just before the break when fly-half Carty punished Stephen Archer's collapsing of a scrum.

Once again, their loose forwards were key, their well-oiled turnover machine foiling attack after attack, driving Caolin Blade to distraction. Tadhg Beirne, in particular, was prominent in this endeavour and was rewarded with the man of the match award. Munster did pay some penalty for their zeal at the breakdown, the penalty count reaching stratospheric levels by the end. 

Penalties from Hanrahan on the 41st and 62nd minute pushed the lead out to 16-3, though rarely did the Conference B leaders threaten a try in the second half. 

Connacht achieved little against a ferocious and biting Munster defence, the southerner's high-profile South African Damian de Allende showcasing his physicality and prowess throughout. 

Munster had been conceding penalties at a steady rate throughout the game though this ramped up even more in the final quarter as Connacht mustered a late surge. 

Referee Frank Murphy eventually flashed a yellow at a player in red; Rory Scannell banished to the bin on 78 minutes, after one too many egregious offences at the breakdown. 

From the resultant penalty, Connacht rustled up their first - and ultimately only - try of the game, getting to within metres of the line before spreading the ball wide, John Porch feeding substitute Peter O'Sullivan who slid over in the corner. 

Jack Carty proceeded to land a terrific conversion, crucially with thirty seconds remaining on the clock for the restart. 

Moments later, it was properly panic stations for Munster as the home side looked set to steal a most improbable of victories. 

A superb last-minute surge, including a side-stepping run by Ultan Dillane, led to substitute Nick McCarthy's yellow card and a furious scramble close to the Munster line that saw Connacht ultimately fall just short.