Munster were twelve up in less than ten minutes of the kick off, Howlett and Earls finishing off sweeping length of the field moves, Ronan O'Gara converting the first and seeing his second come off an upright.
Brive out-half Mahieu Belie opened his side's account with a 10th minute penalty and added the conversion to Retief Uys's try six minutes later.
Next up for Brive was centre Fabrice Estebanez who scored in the 20th minute with Belie's conversion pushing them into a 17-12.
The topsy turvey nature of the half continued when an Earls fashioned break from his own 22 ended in a try for Howlett under the sticks and Munster held that lead until the 36th minute when Belie's penalty edged the home side in front.
Replacement Stringer took advantage of a slip in the Brive defence to score in the 50th minute, O'Gara converting and tagging on apenalty four minutes later.
Two more O'Gara penalties gave Munster a 19 point lead that became a bare five when first Alexis Palisson and then Shaun Perry crossed for late tries but Munster held out and it was no more than they deserved.