Ulster failed in their attempt to claim a first win on French soil, narrowly going down to Stade Francais 24-19 in a Heineken Cup dead rubber 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.
After Ireland's heroic big-game hunt of the Springboks and Scotland's six-try runaround of the Pumas, the challenge of engineering the most spectacular win of the autumn series now falls on Wales, writes Peter Jackson.