The green shoots of ulster's recovery took a major blow at ravenhill last night as the province returned to the bottom of the magners league with defeat to edinburgh.
Following a decent showing away at Bourgoin and victory at Connacht last week, the progress made under caretaker coach Steve Williams took a step backwards in what was Ulster's second successive reverse at Ravenhill, and a fifth from eight games in their league campaign.
Despite a high octane start which yielded a length of the field try by Tommy Bowe, Ulster's frailties were exposed by first half tries by Matt Dey and Ben Cairns, with Phil Godman converting both and slotting a penalty in each half to leave the home side at one stage trailing 20-5.
Paddy Wallace was able to cut the deficit with three penalties to set up a tense finale but Edinburgh were able to hold on for a deserved victory.
Although Ulster picked up a losing bonus point, Connacht's surprise victory over Glasgow in Galway leaves Steve Williams' side propping up the table once again.
If the first half was a thrilling ride, it left the Ulster supporters with more than white knuckles as despite moments of magic from the men in white, they somehow contrived to go into the break 12 points adrift.
Caretaker coach Steve Williams must have been scratching his head as Ulster managed to play their best rugby of the season for the first 20 minutes and then gift Edinburgh 17 points to leave the home side with a mountain to climb after the break.
Edinburgh gave Ulster an early scare when Phil Godman's cross-kick almost landed in the arms of Nick De Luca with the line at his mercy.
But Ulster's response was sensational. From the scrum on Ulster's five-metre line, Roger Wilson picked up from the base and broke clear up the blindside.
The No 8 found Simon Danielli in support who raced into Edinburgh half and when the ball was moved wide, with great hands from Paddy Wallace, Mark Bartholomeusz put Tommy Bowe over in the corner for the try of the season after just four minutes.
Ulster were lucky not to concede points immediately from the restart when hands in the ruck gifted a shot at goal but Godman pulled a relatively easy chance wide.
Edinburgh responded with vigour, keeping possession and probing the out-half channel in particular, but without making any real headway.
And Ulster were able to pin the visitors back when Bowe hit a good line from a line-out and then Wallace scorched through a hole in the midfield. Moments later the home side looked as if they had extended their lead but referee David Rose spotted a forward pass after Bartholomeusz had glided over from Trimble's midfield bust.
With Wallace pulling the strings superbly, Ulster continued to force the issue, probing the wide channels with Trimble continuing to cause the visitors problems.
Then, from nowhere, Edinburgh seized the lead as the momentum swung with alarming ease.
Godman's chip behind the Ulster defence didn't look overly threatening but Bartholomeusz fumbled as he attempted to gather and the ball rebounded into the arms of Edinburgh centre Matt Dey who touched down in the 22nd minute, with Godman adding the simple conversion.
Some sloppy defending by the Ulster full-back moments later then saw Ben Cairns race over four minutes later, with Godman again on target with the conversion to leave the home side stunned.
Wallace was just short with a long range penalty but Godman made no mistake in the 33rd minute to stretch the visitors' lead to 12 points and Edinburgh continued to dominate the remainder of the half.
It was vital for Ulster's chances that the home side scored first after the restart but it was Edinburgh who turned the screw, with Godman slotting his second penalty in the 47th minute.
Wallace was able to respond with three penalties as the home side began to build the pressure on Edinburgh again. Just as Ulster had got within a converted try of their opponents, Edinburgh were gifted a penalty from the restart but this time Godman missed the chance to put his side more than a score in front.
It mattered little, for despite a late rally by the home side, Edinburgh held on for a deserved victory.
CONNACHT gave their coach Michael Bradley an early Christmas present at the Sportsground last night as they clung on for a much-needed 10-6 victory against Glasgow Warriors.
This was Connacht's first Magners League win since the opening day of the season and a vital one with Bradley under pressure following the province's collapse against Ulster last week.
The game's only try arrived in first-half injury-time when home hooker Adrian Flavin sneaked over following a well-worked lineout move.
Two penalties from a quiet Dan Parks kept Glasgow in the hunt but a 62nd-minute penalty strike from fly-half Andy Dunne secured Connacht their eventual winning margin.
ULSTER: M Bartholomeusz (P Steinmetz 50); T Bowe, A Trimble, R Dewey, S Danielli; P Wallace, I Boss (K Campbell 65); J Fitzpatrick, R Best, B Young, C Del Fava, M McCullough, N Best, D Pollock, R Wilson (K Dawson 12).
EDINBURGH: B Cairns; A Turnbull, N De Luca, M Dey, A Maxwell; P Godman, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Kerr, M Mustchin, B Gissing, R Reid, R Rennie, D Callam.
Referee: D Rose (RFU)