After a turbulent few years, Ulster are finally moving in the right direction again.
The mood music up north has changed drastically since Dan McFarland took over as head coach in 2018 and Ulster are beginning to reap the rewards of the stability brought by the former Scotland assistant.
With a settled coaching staff, the players have really bought into what has been a fresh approach - on and off the pitch.
Buoyed by pushing Leinster all the way in last season's Champions Cup quarter-final, Ulster have made it back to the knockout stages of Europe, where they will be keen to prove they have learned lessons from last year's disappointment.
McFarland has made a couple of shrewd signings in Ian Madigan and Alby Mathewson, while, at the same time, getting the best out of the likes of John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey, both of whom have really reignited their careers.
The loss of Iain Henderson to a hip injury is a major blow in their bid to fight on both the European and domestic front but, nevertheless, Ulster are back competing in knockout rugby.
The next step is to end their 14-year wait for a trophy.
Where were we?
Ulster have a quarter-final date with Toulouse to look forward to next month and while a trip to France is no easy task, it will be less daunting without the passionate home supporters.
Barring a collapse of epic proportions, McFarland's side will finish second in their PRO14 conference and claim a semi-final place.
Securing two points would make absolutely sure of that, and starting with Connacht on Sunday, they will have their sights set on picking up where they left off in February.
What's at stake?
Ulster cannot catch runaway leaders Leinster and while they may be looking over their shoulder at Glasgow in third place, the northern province's fate is in their own hands.
Not only do they have a nine-point cushion over the Scots, Ulster also have a healthier points difference. However, McFarland will be hoping it doesn't come down to that.
Madigan and Mathewson bring a wealth of experience that will be welcomed at the Kingspan.
Madigan is back in Ireland with a point to prove and is already speaking of his ambition to break back into the international set-up. He will first have to usurp Billy Burns in the No 10 jersey.
Mathewson made a huge impact during his short stay with Munster, who were keen to keep the former All Blacks scrum-half in Limerick until the IRFU intervened.
With Cooney set to miss a large chunk of the season due to international commitments, Mathewson will have a big role to play.
Ulster have dug themselves out of some tricky situations this season, which may serve them well come the business end of the campaign.
They have a settled look to their starting XV and in Cooney, they have one of the form players in Europe.
The additions of Jordi Murphy, Jack McGrath and the fit-again Sam Carter have added a bit of grunt to the pack, which again will be led by the outstanding Marcell Coetzee.
Their back-line has plenty of firepower, but Robert Baloucoune (hamstring) and Will Addison (back) are big losses.
Jacob Stockdale will also believe he has a point to prove and if he can rediscover his best form, Ulster will cause problems for any defence.
Room to improve
For all that they have added to their squad depth, the northerners still look a little light in a couple of key positions, particularly at hooker.
Rob Herring is likely to be away with Ireland, which means that Adam McBurney and John Andrew must step up to the mark.
With Henderson sidelined for the next couple of months, Ulster can ill-afford to be overly reliant on Coetzee, who has had his own injury problems.
Henderson also leaves a big leadership void and McFarland will be looking to the likes of Murphy and Cooney to keep the show on the road.
This time last year, the easy answer would have been Coetzee and while the Springbok flanker remains a vital cog in Ulster's wheel, such has been the remarkable level of Cooney's performances, the scrum-half has become the heartbeat of the team.
Taking on goal-kicking responsibilities, Cooney has largely been nerveless from the tee and with a stunning try-scoring record to boot, he has taken his game to new heights.
One to watch
The Belfast natives have high hopes for Stewart Moore, who has graduated to the senior squad from the academy this season.
The 21-year-old centre is an exciting talent who will be pushing for further first-team action this term.
Moore is a former Ireland U-20 international and while he has had his injury problems, he will look upon this season as a fresh start.
Ulster must hit the ground running against Connacht on Sunday before they face Leinster next week.
Although they are missing a couple of key players, McFarland will hope he has the squad depth to cope.
Going 14 years without a trophy is a considerable drought, but if Ulster can regain the momentum they had before the break, they are a match for anyone on their day.
TOMORROW: Rúaidhrí O'Connor looks at how Connacht are shaping up