Replacements: Daniel Montgomery, Darragh Cantillon, Colin Liston, Johnny Moroney, Gareth Quinn McDonogh.
Replacements: Tyrone Moran, Richard Liddington, Steve Collins, Marcus Walsh, Sean Carey.
It was the key score of a gripping encounter between these two top four sides, with the result seeing Lansdowne lose their hold on first place - Garryowen are the new leaders.
Munsters, licking their wounds after a derby defeat to Garryowen, came into this game in fourth place and in real need of a fillip before the Christmas break.
An early bout of territory yielded a first successful penalty from Lansdowne's in-form out-half Craig Ronaldson, with his kicking rival Brian Haugh missing his opener from halfway.
Mike Ruddock's men turned down a kickable penalty soon after, preferring to go for touch but a knock on in the resulting phase saw the attack peter out.
Lansdowne regained that ground with a swift counter attack and Ronaldson split the posts from a penalty straight in front of the posts for 6-0.
Good work at the breakdown gave scrum half Haugh an opportunity to respond and he duly did to get the Cookies off the mark.
Munsters then hit a purple patch with backs and forwards combining to telling effect, setting up their director of rugby Mike Prendergast, who started at out-half, for a snap drop goal that went over despite him slipping.
Young Munster's strong mauling was becoming a key factor as they earned another penalty shot for Haugh who converted it for a 9-6 turnaround.
However, two closing penalties from Ronaldson saw the headquarters club snap back into a 12-9 lead for the break, the last effort coming after a sustained bout of pressure.
Into the second period, a knock on ruined a promising maul from Lansdowne and Lespierre seized his chance from a Ger Slattery pass, producing a memorable sidestepping run from deep for his second league try.
Haugh converted from in front of the posts to move Munsters 16-12 clear, although there was plenty left for them to do.
A collapsed scrum allowed Ronaldson the chance to hit back almost immediately, but his penalty from the 10-metre line was pulled to the right.
Unforced errors continued to blight the table toppers' game with doughty defence keeping them at bay, Mark Rowley, Neville Melbourne and Craig O'Hanlon stood out for the Cookies in that regard.
Ronaldson let Munsters off the hook with another penalty miss and a subsequent forward pass saw Lansdowne's frustration mount.
Prendergast's hugely committed side dug their heels but an offside decision saw Ronaldson find the target with his fifth successful penalty, closing the gap to a single point (16-15).
That set up a grandstand finish in Greenfields during which Munsters rode their luck at times, but maintained their discipline to run out narrow winners in the end.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)