With a minute of normal time left, Munster, despite producing a sensational performance, looked set to be denied on points difference. However, Munster's Heart did not fail and John Kelly's injury-time try ensured that Munster surpassed Gloucester for second place in Pool 2.
Ronan O'Gara opened Munster's account with an eighth minute penalty won after Henry Paul had failed to deal with the fly-half's Garryowen. The Munster lead lasted only three minutes when Ludovic Mercier produced a kick form 35 metres.
Munster also looked certain to score the first try of the match in the 14th minute after a superb break by Mike Mullins but Anthony Foley was held up inches short of the line. However, Munster did force a series of penalties near the Gloucester line but with tries required, O'Gara rejected the option of taking the simple three points.
Tries were what was required and sure enough a darting Peter Stringer break enabled winger John Kelly to dive over in the corner. Gloucester recovered well to pin Munster deep in their own '22 and the pressure yielded a second successful penalty for Mercier in the 29th minute after Jim Williams had committed an offence.
Munster were camped into the Gloucester '22 for a five minute period but despite conceding possession, the English club defended comfortably. However a Gloucester transgression gave Munster another penalty from straight in front of the posts in the 37th minute and on this occasion, O'Gara accepted the three points.
In first half injury-time, Gloucester's Peter Buxton was sin-binned for an offence in a ruck.
Munster immediately made their temporary one-man advantage count when centre Jason Holland s chip into space saw Lawlor touch down.
Munster maintained the pressure at the start of the second half and Stringer and O'Gara seemed set to cross the Gloucester line only to be denied by desperate defending. O'Gara accepted a simple three points 10 minutes into the second half as Munster maintained their dominance.
The prospect of an astonishing Munster qualification began to look possible in the 56th minute with Jason Holland's chip behind the Gloucester defence enabling Mick O'Driscoll to touch down. O'Gara's superb conversion from near the touchline extended Munster's lead to 26-6.
At that stage, Munster knew that one more converted try would be enough to ensure qualification. Munster received a further boost in the 64th minute when hooker Olivier Azim became the second Gloucester forward to be sin-binned. But inevitably nerves began to affect the Munster performance and with a minute left, their lead remained an insufficient 20 points.
However, Munster then made a desperate final charge into the Gloucester '22 and after Stringer had been held up, the ball eventually came to John Kelly who crossed for the all-important fourth try. With the conversion all-important to ensure a 27-point margin, O'Gara showed admirable nerve to slot over the high-pressure kick.
Final Score: Munster 33 Gloucester 6
Alan Gaffney is justly proud of the performance his team put in today. "When I came here first I was told of the passion and determination that Munster players have. Today I really saw that in action. It was a joy to watch."
Jim Williams highlighted the consistency of the Munster play. "We are always capable of a very good 40 minutes. This time we kept at them for 80. We decided what areas we wanted to target and worked consistently to achieve those tries."
Frankie Sheehan was delighted. "When we came back after the last match, people were quick to tell us what we did wrong. We worked hard during the week. It's all about getting it all together and that's what we did to win today."
Munster Tries: Kelly 2, Lawlor, O'Driscoll Pen: O'Gara 3 Con: O'Gara 2
Pens: Mercier 2
Staunton, Kelly, Mullins, Holland, Lawlor, O'Gara, Stringer, Horan, Sheahan, Hayes, O'Driscoll, O'Callaghan, Williams (capt), Foley, Quinlan.
Replacements: Cahill, Blaney, Galwey, Leamy, Halvey, Prendergast, Malone, Keane, McMahon.
Paul, Simpson-Daniel, Fanolua, Todd, Delport, Mercier, Gomarsall, Roncero, Azam, Vickery, Fidler, Cornwell, Boer, Buxton, Paramore.
Replacements: Stuart-Smith, Amor, Beim, Collins, Deacon, Hazell, Eustace.