Stade Francais 24 Ulster 19
Ulster failed in their attempt to claim a first win on French soil, narrowly going down to Stade Francais in their Heineken Cup encounter at the Stade Jean-Bouin.
With both teams' chances of qualifying for the tournament's quarter-finals from Pool Four already extinguished, only a second-placed finish in the group and a smidgen of pride was at stake.
But Ulster, victorious against Harlequins last weekend, had been challenged by head coach Matt Williams to make another statement of intent ahead of next season's competition and they dominated the first half, going into the break 8-6 up thanks to Paul Steinmetz's try and Niall O'Connor's penalty.
But Stade woke from their torpor in the second half, Juan Manuel Leguizamon touching down and France fly-half Lionel Beauxis booting his third and fourth penalties to give the Parisian aristocrats the lead.
Clinton Schifcofske landed his second penalty eight minutes from time to draw Ulster to within three points but Mark Gasnier's breakaway try clinched Stade the win, despite Nigel Brady's last-second consolation score.
Beauxis finished with a 14-point haul for the afternoon.
Williams will be proud of his team, which included a number of youngsters as he had decided to rest most of his key first-teamers.
Indeed, Ulster were camped in Stade's half for most of the first half, Scottish winger Simon Danielli and all three members of their mobile back row among their players making line breaks at will.
But their heavy pressure early on yielded only three points through a 15th-minute penalty from O'Connor, who missed efforts in the second and 23rd minutes.
Stade, who were also playing a weakened team, had been non-existent until that point but finally found some momentum, the crowd woken up by a couple of thumping tackles by number eight Leguizamon.
Beauxis booted two simple penalties in the space of three minutes just before the half-hour mark to put the Parisians in front.
But just before half-time - and with Stade captain Pierre Rabadan halfway through his 10-minute stint in the sin bin for persistent offending - more sustained pressure from the Irish side finally resulted in a try, O'Connor popping the ball up for Steinmetz to scurry over from 10 yards.
O'Connor failed to land a straightforward conversion but his side still went into the break with a slender but deserved lead.
Schifcofske, taking over kicking duties from O'Connor, traded penalties with Beauxis early in the second half.
Stade, though, started to build up a head of steam and Leguizamon darted through a gap on the right, sold a dummy to Schifcofske and dived over for their first try.
Beauxis missed the conversion but then landed a three-pointer just before the hour to put Stade 17-11 up.
The hosts by this time had drafted big guns Sergio Parisse and Dimitri Szarzewski off the bench and they were helping to turn the tide, while Ulster's youngsters were visibly beginning to tire.
Schifcofske's 72nd-minute penalty ensured a nervy finish but the otherwise anonymous Gasnier skipped away for a try converted by Beauxis that sealed the win and second spot in the pool for Stade.
Nigel Brady rumbled over on the blind side of a well-worked lineout in the last seconds to grab a consolation for a game Ulster side.