With key forwards Mark Andrews and Andrew Mower in the sin-bin after incurring the wrath of referee Tony Spreadbury, the home side were left with a major uphill struggle to lift themselves off the bottom of the table and ease the relegation pressure, but despite conceding two tries in that period they managed just that.
Two men to the good and with momentum swinging their way, Leicester looked to be on course for the points when Dorian West rumbled over from a catch-and-drive at an attacking lineout in the 72nd minute, but the missed conversion of Australian fly-half Craig McMullen was to come back and haunt him.
When Leicester repeated the feat on the stroke of 80 minutes, West again being one of a host of forwards who appeared to have hands on the ball at the crucial scoring point, a well-taken conversion from fullback Steve Booth – in for Geordan Murphy – got them to within two points.
Time was not on their side though and the Tigers must now step up a gear to realise their top-three play-off ambitions, while Newcastle are left with ever so slightly less relegation pressure hanging over them after a gritty performance.
Earlier they had surged into a 21-10 lead courtesy of tries through England cap Michael Stephenson and his fellow academy product Jamie Noon – Stephenson's score coming from a break involving back rower Hugh Vyvyan and Tongan back rower Epi Taione, who was not involved with his national side's hammering of Korea in a World Cup qualifier this weekend.
That score came after Booth had fired Leicester into an early lead on 15 minutes after joining the line from fullback at a scrum and going over, McMullen converting that score.
But it was to be Noon's second-half try that swung the game the way of the home side, kicking ahead on the counter-attack and just getting to the ball before it bounced out after flat-footing the Tigers' defence.
A penalty from Wilkinson near the end before the late Leicester onslaught was to prove crucial – the good news for England coach Clive Woodward being that Wilkinson came through the entire 80 minutes without any recurrence of the shoulder injury that forced him from the field early against Italy last weekend, meaning he should be fit to start the Calcutta Cup against Scotland this week.
For Newcastle FalconsTries: Stephenson, NoonCon: WilkinsonPens: Wilkinson 3DG: Wilkinson
For Leicester TigersTries: Booth, West 2Con: McMullen, BoothPen: Booth