It was a forgettable performance from both sides on a damp and difficult night at Ravenhill. But Andy Robinson’s side produced 17 first-half points and Ulster just could not match it, even though they upped the ante after the interval.
Caretaker coach Steve Williams now has a huge battle on his hands to stay off the bottom of the table and finish above Connacht to secure Heineken Cup qualification for next season.
He will have little to cheer him from this Ulster effort which mostly lacked control and composure.
The province certainly made an impressive start and scored from a move that began near their line after just four minutes had gone. Roger Wilson picked up from a scrum and broke up the blindside before passing to Simon Danielli.
The former Scotland wing kept the move alive, though referee David Rose missed a forward pass from Paddy Wallace as Ulster spun the ball wide before Mark Bartholomeusz put Tommy Bowe in at the right corner.
Ulster failed to add the extras and then lost Wilson to an arm injury before proceeding to spill two scoring opportunities, one which saw Danielli knock on the Edinburgh line.
Ulster responded by losing all grip on the remainder of the half and allowing the visitors’ more aggressive pack to dictate proceedings.
Centre Matt Dey opened the scoring for the visitors when Bartholomeusz failed to deal with a Phil Godman chip and then, four minutes later, full back Ben Cairns rounded the Ulster cover to run in from the right-wing channel. Both scores were converted by Godman to put the visitors 14-5 in front.
Wallace then missed a penalty before Godman showed more composure in front of the posts with a great long-range effort to give Edinburgh a 17-5 interval lead.
Godman then stretched Edinburgh’s lead with his second penalty five minutes after the restart but Ulster battled back and dominated most of the remainder.
Wallace landed two penalties before Kieran Campbell was brought on to win his 100th cap and give the crowd something to cheer about. It certainly lifted Ulster, who saw Bowe held up just short in a gutsy second-half effort from the home side.
Then, with 10 minutes left, Wallace kicked a third penalty to give Ulster a chance of a bonus point which they secured when Godman missed a straightforward penalty chance at the death.