10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
A late try from Iain Henderson, arguably Ulster's best performer on the day, will be scant consolation for the province who must now focus on securing a play-off berth in the RaboDirect PRO12.
After the recent injury woes which had taken a considerable toll on Ulster's form and results, head coach Mark Anscombe was able to name a strong squad for the make-or-break encounter.
Luke Marshall was a notable returnee at inside centre and Tommy Bowe was named on the bench for the first time since December.
Elsewhere, John Afoa, back in time from the birth of his daughter Violet in New Zealand, slotted in at tighthead prop and Henderson was preferred to Robbie Diack in the back row.
Saracens started on the front foot with a good break down the right wing from Chris Ashton, before Farrell stabbed over a third minute penalty from in front of the posts to establish an early lead.
Ulster soon settled into their rhythm however, Nick Williams in particular gaining good ground with two strong carries before being crowded out by assiduous Sarries defending.
A dinked kick into the corner from Paddy Jackson on 18 minutes put the hosts under pressure metres from their own line, but the English outfit worked the long lineout well and cleared the danger with little fuss.
An infringement from Brad Barritt in the next play, however, gave Ruan Pienaar the chance to draw his side level from 45 metres, but the scrum half, usually most reliable from distance, clipped his kick just wide.
The Springbok came close to atoning for his miss moments later with a second penalty from 50 metres on the left wing, but, frustratingly, the ball struck the post and rebounded back into play, where it was immediately knocked on by Steve Borthwick.
Ulster worked the resulting scrum well and, with Will Fraser pulled up for infringing in front of the posts, Pienaar slotted home the simple kick.
Parity lasted for less than a minute in the first instance, Farrell nudging his side back in front just before the half hour mark, but was restored on 31 minutes, once more from the boot of Pienaar.
This seemed to spur Saracens into action and from a lineout which in truth should have been awarded Ulster's way, strong mauling carried Fraser over the line for a vital opening try, awarded by referee Romain Poite after input from the TMO. Farrell converted for a 13-6 lead.
The England out-half added another three points from 35 metres out, and with the match threatening to slip out of Ulster's reach, the half-time whistle came as a welcome reprieve.
After a disjointed start to the second period from both sides, Craig Gilroy burst through midfield on 46 minutes, only to be stopped in his tracks by Poite for a case of obstruction which had cleared the path for the flying winger.
Farrell soon increased his side's advantage to 13 points courtesy of another elementary penalty, but Ulster reacted well - notably with a superb carry from the powerful Henderson which took out four or five opponents before earning Pienaar a simple penalty in front of the posts.
With the deficit now back to 10 points on the cusp of the final quarter, Bowe then took to the pitch in place of Darren Cave.
However, it was that man Farrell who made the next impact on the scoresheet, easing the pressure on his side with a sublime fifth penalty from just inside the Ulster half to make it 22-9.
It was game over on 62 minutes as a key interception by replacement Rhys Gill set Ashton loose on the Ulster 22, and the winger showed good pace to outstrip three defenders in a diagonal dart to the right corner.
Farrell missed his first kick of the match with the conversion, but there was clear daylight between the sides and Mark McCall's charges, using their smothering defence to good effect time and again, had the result within their grasp.
To their credit, Ulster continued to chase the game despite the extent of the deficit, and fully deserved Henderson's late try.
The consolation score was crafted by great feet and persistence from replacement centre Stuart Olding in the middle of the pitch, and laudable resistance from his young colleague Henderson who shrugged off three meaty challenges to ground the ball out wide on the right.
Pienaar converted well from the acutest of angles, but there was insufficient time even for a restart as Saracens marched on to a home semi-final against either Toulon and Leicester Tigers.
Speaking after the game, Ulster boss Anscombe said: "Saracens were simply too good for us and they thoroughly deserved their victory. They stuck to their game-plan and played to their strengths.
"We didn't play with the kind of energy we wanted and their defence was superb. We didn't throw everything we had at them.
"Why? Without looking for excuses, we haven't had a lot of time together as a team and we probably needed two or three games together before coming into a game like this - we probably rushed players back.
"We'd had a difficult game (against Leinster) the previous weekend and maybe it took a bit more sting out of us than we thought. But we have a good team at Ulster and we will still be a good team."
|Saracens Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|