Leicester fly-half George Ford missed two crucial drop goals as Exeter won a brilliant match 30-28 at Welford Road to beat the Tigers in Aviva Premiership Rugby for the first time.
It is almost a year since Exeter paid their first visit in Aviva Premiership RUgby to Leicester and nearly produced the biggest shock of the season when they lead by 11 points only to run out of steam and go down 37-27. Things were different on Saturday, though, with Leicester missing 11 players on World Cup duty and Exeter three for this opening game of the season.
Leicester were also hit by a further absentee just before kick-off when former England international Mat Tait was ruled out with a sore groin, replaced on the wing by Niall Morris. And from where the teams left off in terms of form last season, they continued this term, as directly from the kick-off, Exeter stunned Leicester.
Fly-half Ignacio Mieres began the match, wing Josh Tatupu grabbed the ball and then sent centre Sireli Naqelevuki in from 15 metres, with Mieres converting. The Tigers hit back immediately, though, when Thomas Waldrom found a gap through a pile of bodies to touch down.
The match swung back and forth in the first quarter as centre Billy Twelvetrees converted Waldrom's score and teenage fly-half Ford dropped a goal to put Leicester 10-7 ahead before Mieres levelled matters with a 25-metre penalty.
Leicester regained the lead when Morris chipped over the top of the defence to score in the left corner, but Exeter would not lay down to last season's Aviva Premiership Rugby runners-up. Big number eight Richard Baxter finished off a powerful Chiefs' drive in the home 22 with a try which Mieres converted, before the fly-half added two more penalties before half-time.
The 23-15 Exeter lead was not a scoreline that would have pleased ex-England hooker Richard Cockerill in the Leicester changing room during the break but, after Twelvetrees dragged back three more points soon after the restart, it got worse for the home club.
Chiefs' wing Matt Jess skipped past the Leicester midfield after his pack had gained ground into the opposition 22 and, with another Mieres conversion, there was suddenly daylight between the teams at 30-18.
But a lot of teams have come to Welford Road, gone ahead and believed they could beat the Tigers after going ahead. However, Leicester are a tough side to crack on their own patch and they fought back into the game with some interest.
Another Twelvetrees penalty reduced the arrears of the absorbing contest to nine points before Morris sped down the wing again to chase a rolling ball and touchdown in the left corner, and a huge conversion from Twelvetrees off the touchline put Leicester just two points behind.
Goalkicker Gareth Steenson came on as a replacement for Mieres and was immediately called into action but failed with three vital penalty shots. And Leicester threw the kitchen sink at their opponents in a fantastic finale and looked to have secured it only for Ford to miss a straight-forward drop goal wide of the upright.
Exeter were hanging on for dear life still with their two-point advantage as the last play of the game arrived with the Tigers camped on the Chiefs' 22. And one last attempt at a drop goal from Ford from 30 metres, with the Chiefs players trying to charge it down, went wide and Exeter secured a famous win.