Cudmore (left) and O'Connell exchange words after their bust-up
Munster (11) 23
Wallace, Horan, Ronan
Clermont Auvergne (3) 13
Munster notched two late tries to claim a dramatic win over Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup clash in Limerick.
David Wallace's try helped Munster lead 11-3 at half-time with Clermont down to 14 men after Jamie Cudmore's dismissal following a clash with Paul O'Connell.
But Julien Malzieu's try helped Clermont move 13-11 ahead and the French side wasted other chances.
Munster then summoned up a huge finish with Marcus Horan burrowing his way over before Niall Ronan's clincher.
Clermont dominated possession early on but without creating a scoring chance of note.
The game then boiled over in ugly fashion in the 19th minute as Cudmore and O'Connell landed blows on each other, with other players inevitably getting involved.
Cudmore had appeared to throw the two initial punches and he was handed a red card by referee Chris White with O'Connell ordered to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.
From the resultant penalty O'Gara kicked Munster ahead but the lead was shortlived as Brock James levelled within two minutes.
As the game began to open up, O'Gara landed a second Munster penalty in the 26th minute and a thrilling break out of defence by Keith Earls then had Clemont in trouble before the danger was averted.
Munster's Doug Howlett is tackled by Napolini Vonowale-Nalaga
Munster continued to press but they had a let-off in the 36th minute when Benoit Baby failed to hold a pass from Malzieu, just as he appeared set to notch a breakaway try.
Within two minutes, Munster were scoring at the other end after a forwards drive with Wallace barging his way over to help the home side to an 11-3 interval lead.
Despite Munster's numerical advantage, Clermont did all the attacking in the early part of the second half.
Marius Joubert and Napolini Vonowale-Nalaga both produced breaks to put the Munster defence under pressure and a second James penalty cut the Munster lead to five points in the 50th minute.
Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary had to produce a remarkable tackle to prevent Baby from scoring a try under the posts in the 53rd minute.
After both fly-halves had missed penalties, Clermont were ahead on the hour when Malzieu broke through Earls' weak tackle to crash over in the corner with James adding the superb conversion.
Clermont dominated for the next 15 minutes but a missed drop-goal effort from James was the closest they came to adding to their lead.
With five minutes remaining, Munster finally broke out of their own half and suddenly it was Clermont who were looking tired.
As Munster changed into the Clermont 22, they had numbers out wide and Horan squeezed his way over the line.
Despite O'Gara's missed conversion, Munster were 16-13 ahead.
Within a minute, a bonus-point had even disappeared for the stunned French side as Ronan notched another try after his own chip-and-chase.
O'Gara, playing his 79th European Cup match, added the conversion to complete the mugging and ensure that he became the first player to score 1,000 points in the competition.
More importantly, the victory keeps the holders on target for the knockout stages.
: K Earls; D Howlett, B Murphy, L Mafi, I Dowling; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt); A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Wallace.
: D Fogarty, T Buckley, D Ryan, J Coughlan, P Stringer, P Warwick, K Lewis.
: A Floch, J Malzieu, M Joubert, B Baby, N Vonowale Nalaga, B James, P Mignoni, L Emmanuelli, B Cabello, S Jacobus Roux, J Cudmore, T Privat, J Bonnaire, A Audebert, E Vermeulen.
: M Ledesma, D Zirakashavili, C Samson, E Etien, J Senio, S Bai, G Esterhuizen.