Saints started brightly and thanks to two Ryan Lamb penalties - the fly half overcoming seeing his first penalty come back off the left-hand post - hit the front. The second of these came from a scrum, and while this set a portent for the future so did the Irish province responding quickly though Ronan O'Gara, reduced the gap with his first penalty of the evening.
Saints were proving far too hot for Munster to handle in the scrum and it was a penalty try that stretched the lead on 16 minutes. As the men in green, black and gold powered their way towards the line, Munster could find no response and, as they tried to kick the ball away to prevent the hosts from scoring, referee Romain Poite was left with no choice but to run under the posts and give Saints their first score of the night.
O'Gara squeezed a penalty just inside the posts on 20 minutes to reduce the Saints' lead to seven points and the fly half returned eight minutes later to close that gap to four points after the Saints were deemed to be offside.
Just as he had done two weeks ago when Harlequins were beaten at Franklin's Gardens, Lamb was controlling the game with his boot and giving the Saints plenty of territory. It was no surprise then that out of nowhere, the Saints fly half struck a beautifully-weighted drop-goal to re-establish the seven point advantage.
By now, the capacity stadiumMK crowd were being treated to another classic European encounter and Munster pulled themselves level on 32 minutes. After being hit by Lamb's drop-goal, the visitors went straight from the restart and when BJ Botha found a gap in the Saints defence, the prop charged through to get Munster's opening try and with O'Gara's conversion parity was restored.
Suddenly it was the Irish side that had all the momentum and when Ben Foden was guilty of not releasing the ball O'Gara slotted his fourth penalty of the match to put Munster ahead for the first time. But the Saints responded in the best way they know how, by putting huge pressure on at the scrum and when the Munster pack crumbled once again, Lamb kicked another simple penalty to leave the score tied at 19-19 at half-time.
If Tony McGahan had told his Munster side to start the second half well then they must have been listening as the visitors had their second try within three minutes of the second period. Constant pressure was met by resolute Saints defence but as the ball was spun wide at pace winger Johne Murphy stretched to dot the ball down in the corner, O'Gara adding the extras.
Saints were beginning to concede possession and Munster made them pay with a devastating attack on 49 minutes. The ball was swept wide from right to left and winger Simon Zebo was on hand to romp down the touchline and grab the visitors' third score.
The men in green, black and gold were in danger of being overrun, but they got back into the game with a superb score. After multiple scrums on the Munster five-metre line and with the visitors being warned on more than one occasion, referee Poite had no hesitation in awarding the Saints their second penalty try of the evening which Lamb converted from in front of the posts.
Lamb and O'Gara exchanged penalties before Munster killed the game off with two tries in five minutes. With an eight-point deficit going into the final 10 minutes Saints were chasing the game, only to see a floated pass go straight into the hands of Zebo, who ran 50 metres to score between the posts and seal the visitors' bonus point.
Zebo showed his pace and potential by scoring his hat-trick with three minutes remaining, but the Saints bowed out of this year's Heineken Cup by giving their superb supporters something to cheer about, Scott Armstrong jinking his way through the Munster defence to score a fantastic individual try.
REFEREE Romain POITE (FFR)
6mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 3-0
12mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 6-0
14mins MUNSTER Pen O'Gara 6-3
16mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Lamb 13-3
20mins MUNSTER Pen O'Gara 13-6
29mins MUNSTER Pen O'Gara 13-9
30mins SAINTS Drop-goal Lamb 16-9
32mins MUNSTER Try Botha Con O'Gara 16-16
38mins MUNSTER Pen O'Gara 16-19
40mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 19-19
HALF TIME SAINTS 19 MUNSTER 19
43mins MUNSTER Try Murphy Con O'Gara 19-26
49mins MUNSTER Try Zebo 19-31
57mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Lamb 26-31
57mins SAINTS Yellow Card Dickson
57mins MUNSTER Yellow card Murray
65mins MUNSTER Pen O'Gara 26-34
67mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 29-34
69mins MUNSTER Pen O'Gara 29-37
72mins MUNSTER Try Zebo Con O'Gara 29-44
77mins MUNSTER Try Zebo Con O'Gara 29-51
80mins SAINTS Try Armstrong Con Myler 36-51
FULL TIME SAINTS 36 MUNSTER 51