Marshall secures draw but Ulster rue dropped points
Ulster 24 Cardiff Blues 24
Ulster nearly pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat when they finally woke up during a rip-roaring final 10 minutes, but this draw dented their hopes of making the Guinness Pro12 play-offs.
They are now vulnerable to fifth-placed Scarlets overtaking them when they host Treviso tonight.
Cardiff were a real handful, with centres Rey Lee-Lo, who grabbed two tries, and Willis Halaholo in particularly devastating form, punishing Ulster's lacklustre first-up tackling.
Cardiff took the lead with a Gareth Anscombe penalty in the eighth minute but Ulster responded strongly.
After a strong run from Charles Piutau, Ruan Pienaar pushed through a delightful kick for Paddy Jackson to control and go over. The Ireland out-half added the extras himself.
Cardiff retook the lead with a try by Sam Warburton in the 23rd minute. Anscombe landed the conversion, but back bounced Ulster as four minutes later a rolling lineout drive was pulled down and referee Ian Davies awarded a penalty try.
Cardiff continued to make Ulster work hard on the restart and again the home side fell off tackles which allowed Halaholo to make ground.
The move ended with Lee-Lo going over at the posts in the 48th minute. Anscombe's conversion made it 17-14 to the visitors, and Ulster needed to start playing.
Jackson brought the game level with a penalty in the 56th before Ulster were easily cut apart again to allow Lee-Lo to virtually walk in for his second try as Cardiff opened up a 24-17 lead on the hour.
Luke Marshall finally applied the cutting edge that Ulster were lacking for most of the game as he sliced through in the 69th minute.
With Jackson converting, it was all-square once again. Ulster did find some energy in those final 10 minutes by they couldn't dig out a winning finish.
ULSTER - J Payne (J Stockdale 42); C Gilroy (A Trimble 56), L Marshall, S Olding, C Piutau; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick (Black 75), R Best (R Herring 66), W Herbst (R Ah You 66), K Treadwell, A O'Connor (R Diack 63), I Henderson, S Reidy, R Wilson (Timoney 63).
CARDIFF BLUES - R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, B Scully (Morgan, 11); G Anscombe, L Williams; G Jenkins, M Rees (Myhill, 57), T Filise (Assiratti, 40), G Earle (Down, 26), J Hoeata, E Jenkins, S Warburton (Williams, 37) J Navidi.
REF - I Davies (WRU).