Ulster survived a late Sharks' bite to book a home quarter-final in the United Rugby Championship.
Ulster were cruising at 24-7 with 20 minutes to go but two late tries set up a tense finish with the South Africans, who had been outplayed for most of the game, suddenly with a shout of snatching it.
Ulster held on and the win takes them into second place, for now. It will depend on results elsewhere on Saturday to decide whether Ulster secure a top-two finish and a potential home semi-final.
Sharks were on top in the opening 10 minutes but didn’t score and from there, Ulster dominated. They led 10-0 at half time with Mikey Lowry’s try, after great work down the left wing by Ethan McIlroy, converted by John Cooney.
Ulster got the second half off to a perfect start when Stuart McCloskey dotted down under the posts after a trademark bustling run. His strong arm and pace got him over to give Ulster real breathing space for the first time and a 17-0 lead.
Sharks continued to carry through their forwards and tried to punch holes from close range. Ulster’s first-up defence was superb but after a period of dominance, replacement prop Mchunu crashed over.
Three minutes later, Ulster scored a clinching third try through James Hume but it was all about Robert Baloucoune, whose pace created the opportunity.
It looked like that was that, but Grant Williams scored a breakaway third for the visitors after a chip over the top with three minutes to go, but Ulster saw it out.
Lowry, McCloskey, Hume; : Cooney, Cooney
Scorers for Sharks:N Mchunu, Louw, Williams; Bosch, Chamberlain 2
M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, E McIlroy; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, I Henderson; Marcus Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen. J Andrew, E O’Sullivan, G Milasinovich, K Treadwell, Matty Rea, N Doak, S Moore, R Lyttle
A Fassi; W Kok, L Am, M Louw, M Mapimpi; C Bosch, J Hendriske; O Nche, M Mbonambi; T du Toit; R van Heerden, R Hugo; S Kolisi, H Venter, P Buthelezi. K van Vuuren, N Mchunu, K Mchunu, H Andrews, J Labuschagne, S Notshe, G Williams, B Chamberlain