Christian Cullen made a try-scoring comeback for Munster
Munster 13 (6)
Pens: O'Gara 2
Connacht 0 (0)
Munster moved up the Magners League following a closely-fought battle with Irish rivals Connacht at Thomond Park.
The western province restricted Munster to a couple of Ronan O'Gara penalties at the break in a game played in poor conditions.
Munster, however, held off Connacht's rugged play to pull away when former All Black Christian Cullen crossed the whitewash in the 71st minute.
The victory leaves Munster in eighth place, one point behind Connacht.
The downside for Munster ahead of next weekend's Heineken Cup trip to Cardiff were injuries to Barry Murphy (shoulder) and David Wallace (leg).
But the bonus was the return of Cullen who has been sidelined since injuring his shoulder against Ulster in September.
In the lead-up to his second-half touchdown, O'Connell and Alan Quinlan did the spade work before Lifeimi Mafi found the New Zealander in support to canter over.
In persistent rain and wind, the sides slogged it out in a dour first half with O'Gara landing penalties in the 16th and first-half injury time.
Munster are two points ahead of the Dragons who have two games in hand.
Munster: C Cullen; J Kelly, B Murphy, L Mafi, A Horgan; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; D Hurley, F Sheahan, F Pucciariello, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy.
Replacements: A Kyriacou, J Hayes, P O'Connell, T McGann, P Stringer, J Manning, T Halstead.
Connacht: D Riordan; C McPhillips, P Warwick, K Matthews, D Yapp; M McHugh, C Keane; R Hogan, J Fogarty (c), B Sturgess/S Knoop; D Gannon, A Farley; J Muldoon, R Ofisa, C Rigney.
Replacements: A Flavin, B Wilkinson, R Strudwick, B O'Connor, C O'Loughlin, G Williams, J Hearty.
Referee: Donal Courtney (IRFU).