Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond combined to devastating effect as Bath Rugby moved to the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with an impressive win over the previously unbeaten Saracens.
The centre pairing bagged a try each as Bath dominated proceedings at the Rec and if not for the misfiring right boot of George Ford the victory would have been more comfortable.
Chris Wyles went over in the second half for Sarries – who had won on their last five visits to the Rec – but the hosts held their nerve in the closing stages to claim an impressive win.
The victory means that the home side leapfrog their opponents to top the standings and they will take no end of confidence from victories over both Saracens and Leicester Tigers in the opening five rounds of the season.
It was Sarries that had the first chance to score when referee Greg Garner awarded a penalty at scrum time but Charlie Hodgson – so impressive from the tee this season – saw his effort come crashing back off the post.
Defences were on top in the opening exchanges as both sides opted to put boot to ball more often than not in search of a breakthrough.
So it was no surprise that it was a Ford up and under that brought the first try of the game, much to the delight of the home crowd, after a breakdown in communication between Alex Goode and Billy Vunipola.
There appeared little danger from Ford’s high bomb deep into Sarries’ 22 but neither Goode nor Vunipola went to claim it and as it bounced free Eastmond was onto it in a flash before releasing Joseph for the first try of the game.
Ford added the extras for a seven-point lead but that was soon reduced to 7-3 as the Sarries scrum won another penalty and this time Hodgson made no mistake.
As the half hour approached there was little doubt that Bath were in the ascendancy but Ford was unable to fully press home that advantage, the fly-half missing with two tough penalties from out wide before he held his nerve to slot over a third and re-establish a seven-point lead.
The home side continued to impress however and a Joseph grubber nearly created the second try but the Sarries defence were alert to scramble the ball dead with Semesa Rokoduguni lurking.
And Bath were made to regret not making the most of their dominance as Goode made no mistake with a simple penalty, the full-back taking over goal-kicking duties with Hodgson down receiving treatment for a shoulder knock.
The lead may have been trimmed to 10-6 but Bath were still impressing and Chris Ashton was in the sin bin just before the break as his attempted interception was a knock-on and denied a rampant Bath attack down the left.
Ford potted the simple effort from bang in front and the home side went in at the break 13-6 to the good.
At the start of the second period Bath knew they needed to make their numerical advantage count and a superb Rokoduguni solo counter attack saw the winger carve his way deep into Sarries territory.
Sarries, who had brought Ben Ransom on for David Strettle at the break, were having to hold firm with 14-men as a Bath rolling maul earned another penalty but again Ford’s kick slid wide.
That frustration for the Rec faithful was short-lived however as not long after they had a second try to cheer and it was the lethal centre pairing of Joseph and Eastmond that were again the architects.
Joseph made the initial break down the left before feeding his centre partner and although Eastmond still had a lot to do the diminutive England ace made it look easy to slide over.
Ford’s kicking radar was still off however, the fly-half missing the conversion and the home side were 18-6 in front.
Despite the deficit Sarries’ belief remained undimmed and they would have reduced the deficit to nine points but Goode’s penalty hit the post, the third time that happened during the game.
They did not have to wait long however to close the gap as, after their first period of extended pressure in the Bath 22, Wyles barged his way over in the right corner in the 57th minute.
Goode missed with the tricky conversion but at 18-11 the visitors were right back in the contest.
Ford calmed the Rec’s nerves with a regulation penalty to restore a ten-point lead but he missed with a second to keep it interesting.
In the final minutes Sarries turned up the pressure in search of a losing bonus point at the very least but Bath held strong to prove their title credentials this season.