A capacity Thomond Park crowd roused Munster back to winning ways as their five-try 42-16 romp against Castres Olympique played them back into contention in Heineken Cup Pool One.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 1: Saturday, October 29
Munster 42 Castres Olympique 16, Thomond Park (Att: 13,500)
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Donncha O'Callaghan, Jerry Flannery, Anthony Horgan, John Kelly, Trevor Halstead; Cons: Ronan O'Gara 4; Pens: O'Gara 2, Jeremy Manning
Castres: Try: Romain Teulet; Con: Laurent Marticorena; Pens: Marticorena 3
Munster, Cup quarter-finalists for the past seven seasons, got their bid for this year's knockout stages back on track with a flurry of tries from Donncha O'Callaghan, Jerry Flannery, Anthony Horgan, John Kelly and Trevor Halstead.
Fly-half Ronan O'Gara surely secured the number 10 jersey for Ireland's Dublin date with the All Blacks on November 12 as he notched 14 points.
O'Gara landed two crucial penalties in the space of five minutes coming up to the hour mark to stretch Munster's lead to nine points after the visitors, through a Romain Teulet try and three Laurent Marticorena penalties, had reduced it to three.
Castres centre Marticorena kick-started the ninth European meeting between the sides since 1995 with a third-minute penalty but just three minutes later, Munster supporters were cheering their side's first try. Flannery found his target at a lineout and a traditional Munster maul up to the line saw lock O'Callaghan muscle over to score.
O'Gara landed the conversion before indiscipline from the home pack saw Marticorena boot a second penalty for 7-6.
Despite the presence of two All Black props, captain Kees Meeuws and Carl Hoeft, in the Castres scrum, Munster's eight were well on top and another forward shunt on 18 minutes saw Flannery driven over for O'Gara to convert.
Seven minutes later, winger Horgan was sent scurrying over in the left corner for his 14th Heineken Cup try and Munster seemed in dreamland at 25-6. A converted try for Teulet, who was playing out of position in place of injured fly-half Yann Delaigue, just before the break soon brought Declan Kidney's side back down to earth.
Their 19-13 half-time lead was cut 10 minutes into the second half as Marticorena made it a three-point game with his third penalty but from then on, Munster turned on the afterburners to roar to victory.
O'Gara's brace of penalties, both from more than 40 metres, gave the home side a degree of comfort at 25-16 before Kelly grabbed the bonus point score.
A delightful crossfield kick to the right wing from O'Gara's see winger Kelly storm up, collect it and dip under Marticorena's corner flag tackle to score. On 72 minutes, South African centre Halstead stepped inside Phil Christophers, having been set up by former Great Britain rugby league star Gary Connolly, to grab Munster's fifth try.
Munster then sat back and only some defiant defence prevented Castres scoring a consolation try.
Full-back Shaun Payne did end the night in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on with the Munster line under threat, but fittingly, young Kiwi recruit Jeremy Manning - on for O'Gara - landed an injury-time penalty to close out a heartening home win.
MUNSTER: Shaun Payne; John Kelly, Gary Connolly, Trevor Halstead, Anthony Horgan; Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Mick O'Driscoll, Denis Leamy, David Wallace, Anthony Foley (capt).
Replacements used: Federico Pucciariello for Hayes (56 mins), Barry Murphy for Connolly (80), Trevor Hogan for O'Driscoll, Denis Fogarty for Flannery, Jeremy Manning for O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary for Stringer, Stephen Keogh for Foley (all 88).
CASTRES: Jean-Baptiste Peyras Loustalet; Laloaoa Milford, Laurent Marticorena, Freddie Tuilagi, Phil Christophers; Romain Teulet, Mathieu Barrau; Carl Hoeft, Remy Vigneaux, Kees Meeuws (capt), Nicolas Spanghero, Lionel Nallet, Julien Puricelli, Paul Volley, Florian Faure.
Replacements used: Nicolas Raffault for Tuilagi (32 mins), Federico Capo Ortega for Spanghero (55), Alexandre Albouy for Barrau (62), Guilaume Taussac for Faure (67), Yann Fior for Laloaoa Milford (69), Yannick Forestier for Hoeft (70). Not used: David Romieu.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England); Sin Bin: Shaun Payne (Munster) (79 mins).