Munster fell just short of completing a stunning second-half comeback as they suffered a 29-24 United Rugby Championship defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria.
Johann Van Graan's side trailed 29-3 as late as the 53rd minute before tries from Alex Kendellen, Damian De Allende and Jack O’Donoghue had the province within a try for the last six minutes of the contest.
The Bulls had dominated up to that point, scoring tries through Madosh Tambwe and Walt Steenkamp and making good use of the penalty count as Chris Smith racked up 19 points with the boot.
However, they allowed Munster back into the match and a red card for Bismarck Du Plessis 10 minutes from time – prior to O’Donoghue’s touchdown – made it a nervy end for the home side.
The Bulls were 6-3 up following an exchange of kicks between Smith and Ben Healy when Munster had an O'Donoghue try ruled out for obstruction.
Tambwe then showed his pace to run for the line after an attempted Simon Zebo rip on Marcell Coetzee sent the ball into his grasp in the 17th minute, with Smith on hand to convert the game’s first try and a subsequent penalty as the hosts opened up a 16-3 lead.
Munster were reduced to 14 men when Kendellen saw yellow for a no-arms tackle after 28 minutes and Smith continued to punish the visitors’ indiscipline, splitting the posts with another penalty.
The Bulls capitalised on the man advantage when Steenkamp picked up the pieces from a Kurt-Lee Arendse spillage to dive for the line. Smith again made no mistake, and added yet another penalty after the interval.
Kendellen atoned for his earlier misdemeanour by touching down next to the posts in the 53rd minute, with Healy adding the extras before Tambwe had a try ruled out for a knock-on by Embrose Papier in the build-up.
Replacement De Allende – making his first appearance since January following an abdominal injury – pounced on a loose ball to keep Munster alive in the contest and O’Donoghue burrowed over after Du Plessis had been sent off for a reckless manoeuvre that dumped Kendellen on his head.
Healy converted both tries to bring Munster within five, but the Bulls held on for victory despite Morne Steyn missing the target with two late attempts to put the result beyond doubt.