Frenchman Julien Dupuy was Leicester’s unlikely hero as Tigers maintained their unbeaten start to the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP campaign.
The former Biarritz scrum-half stole Worcester’s thunder in front of a record 10,500-plus Sixways crowd, scoring a late try that he also converted.
Dupuy, pressed into emergency kicking duty while Toby Flood served time in the sin-bin, provided an assured presence throughout a fast and furious contest.
Flood chipped in with four penalties, denying the Warriors a second notable scalp inside a week following their one-point win against champions Wasps last Sunday.
Worcester scored tries through prop Matt Mullan and number eight Netani Talei, and while fly-half Loki Crichton slotted two conversions and a penalty, Warriors were also guilty of four missed kicks.
It was Leicester’s third successive win under their new South African coach Heyneke Meyer.
But Worcester, who lost star Australian full-back Chris Latham after he was on the receiving end of a crunching second-half collision, will feel it was a game that slipped away.
Worcester, their newly-opened £8million East Stand development dominating the Sixways skyline, were again without injured captain Pat Sanderson, so lock Greg Rawlinson continued as skipper.
There was also a home Premiership debut for Latham, while six of Warriors’ starting line-up were home-grown academy products aged 24 or under.
Leicester travelled minus several international stars, including England trio Harry Ellis, Dan Hipkiss and Lewis Moody, but ex-red rose leader Martin Corry made his first start of the season.
Tigers went ahead through a sixth-minute Flood penalty after opposite number Crichton missed his opening chance, but Flood also drifted two long-range kicks wide.
Worcester were the more dangerous side with ball in hand, establishing a considerable threat through centre Sam Tuitupou’s offloading game and Latham’s attacking menace.
Leicester found it increasingly difficult to keep the home side out, and Warriors made a 22nd-minute breakthrough when Mullan charged unmarked through weak Tigers defence.
Crichton added the conversion, before Worcester almost increased their lead when wing Miles Benjamin’s powerful midfield surge was only halted through last-ditch Leicester tackling.
It was not all plain sailing for Worcester though, as their Wales prop Chris Horsman limped off seven minutes before half-time, nursing what appeared to be a calf muscle injury.
And Flood cut the gap to one point during first-half injury time, booting his second penalty despite Leicester being down to 14 men after number eight Jordan Crane was sin-binned.
Flood completed his penalty hat-trick within five minutes of the restart – and with Crane still off – but Worcester’s response was devastating.
As the game began to open up, so Worcester’s runners had a growing impact, yet Leicester would still not have anticipated Talei rampaging over from the halfway line.
Talei accelerated as Leicester defenders desperately tried to keep pace, and with Crichton adding the extras, Worcester moved 14-9 ahead.
Flood’s fourth penalty kept Tigers in contention though, and Worcester found themselves under further pressure when flanker James Collins was yellow-carded for a challenge on Tom Croft.
Croft was taken out in the air from a restart, and although the incident probably looked worse than it was, referee Andrew Small made a correct decision.
The numbers were quickly balanced though, with Flood following Collins into the sin-bin.
Latham’s searing 80-metre break took him to within sight of Leicester’s line, and after the Australian was hauled down, Flood received a yellow card for killing possession.
The England international could have few complaints, and Worcester made him pay when Crichton slotted the resulting penalty.
It was a game high on intensity and skill, with an unrelenting pace continuing well into the closing quarter.
Leicester drew level 12 minutes from time when a spell of concerted pressure reaped its reward as Dupuy darted across before kicking the conversion with Flood still off.
There was a lengthy stoppage while a dazed Latham received treatment before he gingerly left the field, and his replacement Matthew Jones then took Worcester back into Tigers territory as Flood returned.
But Jones missed an injury time 40-metre penalty that could have snatched it for Worcester, and Leicester clung on.