Treviso's Alberto di Bernardo missed a last minute penalty to hand the home side a famous victory but Ulster maintained their unbeaten start the season with a narrow 16-15 triumph in Italy on Friday evening.
A week after an unimpressive success over bottom club Zebre, Mark Anscombe's side turned an interval deficit into a narrow victory. Peter Nelson's try and consistent kicking from Niall O'Connor enabled them to prevail by a single point.
Wing Andrew Trimble and scrum-half Paul Marshall, both released from the Ireland squad ahead of tomorrow's Test against Argentina, returned for Ulster. Academy prospect Nelson got only his second run-out at full-back, while Tom Court, Rob Herring and Declan Fitzpatrick replaced the benched Callum Black, Nigel Brady and John Afoa in an all-new front row.
The hosts took the lead in the sixth minute when fluid movement from the Italian backs end in a try for Brendan Williams, which was converted by Di Bernardo. Nick Williams was denied a 17th-minute try thanks to an inconclusive video replay, before O'Connor got the visitors on the board with a penalty after Treviso had collapsed a scrum.
Six minutes later, Marshall's quickly-tapped penalty caught out the home defence and he supplied Court, who in turn fed Nelson to cross in the corner. O'Connor's conversion from wide had the visitors 10-7 ahead.
However, the hosts hit back with Di Bernardo's penalty squaring the scores after half an hour, then eight minutes later Ludovico Nitoglia exposed another post-scrum gap down the Ulster right to slide over in the corner. Bernardo's conversion was wide but the Italian side went into the interval with a 15-10 lead.
Ulster started the second slowly but were given hope when a Treviso offside gave O'Connor the chance to despatch his second short-range penalty of the encounter, which he accepted. The visitors were denied a try when the TMO was faced with the impossible task of determining whether Nick Williams had grounded amid a mass of bodies.
The lead changed hands decisively in the 58th minute when O'Connor got his angles right from wide out. Treviso rallied but a 72nd-minute penalty proved well out of Di Bernardo's range - and five minutes later he squandered a great chance from a more promising position, after Afoa had been pulled up for coming in from the side. It meant the home side only had a losing bonus point to show from a strong performance, while Ulster were grateful for a win from a game they failed to impress in.