CIYMS held on to beat University of Ulster, Coleraine by a single score in Kukri Qualifying 1 action at Belmont on Saturday afternoon.
With games to come against fellow top-four sides Bangor and Portadown over the festive period, CI could ill-afford any slip-up but required a late penalty try, awarded after Andy Hodgen was tackled without the ball when set to score, to secure the victory.
Despite seeing out the win, the home side's captain Stuart Fergusson was hugely unimpressed with his team's display.
He said: "I think they will be pretty annoyed to just come away with a losing bonus point and will count themselves unlucky.
"We didn't play well out there and I don't really know what went wrong. I had to say to the boys to forget about the bonus point and just go for the win, that's why it's called a bonus. We've got big games coming up so we need to move on quickly."
The home side had begun the game the stronger of the two and looked set to take the lead with just five minutes on the clock after UUC were penalised in the scrum.
Out-half Matt McGuigan struck his kick beyond the left post to keep the scores level but the parity would remain only for a further six minutes when CI were awarded another penalty, this time for UUC entering the ruck from the side, and McGuigan made no mistake with his second shot at goal.
Matters could have soon worsened for the visitors when CI had the put in to a scrum five metres from their line but, after the referee called for three consecutive resets, a rare CI penalty at the set-piece gave UUC the opportunity to clear the ball.
Having withstood that pressure, the students began to exert more influence on the game, although with 10 minutes to go before half-time, the score remained just 3-0.
When Alan Linton was shown a yellow card for an intentional knock-on after half an hour however, CI used their man advantage to score the game's first try.
A poor clearance kick gifted CI territory, allowing Robin Brown to charge forward. With the UUC defence not yet in position, there were men over to the right and a quick exchange of passes allowed Phil McVitty to race over.
With a 10 point and one man advantage, CI seemed in control of proceedings but UUC produced a try of their own just two minutes later.
Andrew Jamison's line-out throw was gathered by lock Gareth Irvine and UUC's pack, having struggled in the scrums, gained some form of redemption by mauling their way over the line. Rob Haldane could not add the extras and so the score stood at 10-5.
Just as Linton returned to the fold, the referee produced more cards with CI's Matt Armstrong and UUC's Jamison being shown yellow in quick succession.
Despite the increase in space and opportunities, neither side added to the score before half-time.
Eight minutes after the restart however and the sides were level after UUC scored their second try of the day.
Swift movement of the ball along the backline created the space and it was lock Gareth Irvine who popped up on the right wing to finish off the move.
At this stage, a repeat of UUC's unlike away victory at Belmont last season seemed an increasing possibility but CI would secure the game's decisive score soon after.
With a loose ball bouncing towards the UUC line, Andy Hodgen seemed certain to gather and score but was brought down just before gaining possession, prompting the referee to march under the posts and award the try.
McVitty was yellow-carded for his part in the ensuing fracas but McGuigan added the conversion to make it a seven point game.
Both sides had chances for further scores, a UUC line-out deep in CI territory at the death providing a particularly nervy moment, but Graham Cloke's side remained resolute to take the win.