Nick Evans celebrated his 100th game in a Harlequins shirt in style as he led the defending champions to a breathtaking comeback to squeeze past Wasps 42-40 at Twickenham to kick the new Aviva Premiership season off in style.
Wasps only just survived relegation last season but quickly put that behind them as they raced into a commanding 28-13 lead at half-time thanks to two tries from Christian Wade and one for his fellow wing Tom Varndell.
And in the second half they found themselves 40-13 up as Marco Wentzel and Tim Payne touched down, but that was as good as it got as Quins showed they aren’t about to give up their Aviva Premiership title without a fight.
Four tries in the space of ten minutes from Tom Guest, two from Mike Brown and Evans brought Quins to within a point of their London rivals.
And with just four minutes left Evans had the fairytale ending to his centenary as he kicked a penalty to hand Harlequins a dramatic victory, having grabbed 29 unanswered points.
It took Wasps just three minutes to show that last year’s woes could be well and truly behind them as they moved the ball from left to right.
Varndell made the break and fed his fellow wing Wade to go over by the touchline for the first try of the new Aviva Premiership season, Nicky Robinson superbly converting the tough kick.
Fly-half Robinson then added two penalties and after 12 minutes Waspswere 20-0 to the good as Varndell went over for their second try, Wade selflessly repaying the earlier favour even though he had already crossed the tryline himself.
Defending champions Harlequins were struggling to impose themselves at Twickenham – the scene of their greatest triumph just three months earlier – as the first 15 minutes saw Wasps have 92 per cent of possession.
But they were soon on the scoresheet as two offloads, the last by captain Chris Robshaw, sent Tom Williams clear to touch down under the posts to officially open Harelquins’ account for the new campaign, Evans adding the extras.
But back came Wasps and after Robinson had added another penalty Wade went over for his second try, leaving George Lowe for dead on the right wing.
Robinson missed the conversion and Evans showed him how it was done, adding two penalties to bring the score to 28-13.
However Wasps thought they had wrapped up the try bonus point on the stroke of half-time as Varndell went over, only for it to be ruled out after a TMO review, the first time the new rule has been used in the Aviva Premiership, for a forward pass by Robinson in the build up.
But Wasps didn’t have to wait long for that fourth try after the interval, Varndell again the provider as he fed lock Marco Wentzel to go over by the left touchline.
New centre Andrea Masi limped off as Robinson was wide with the conversion but it didn’t slow Wasps down as they had a fifth try after 55 minutes, this time surviving a TMO review, as Wentzel fed Payne to barge his way over despite Robshaw’s best efforts.
It took almost an hour for Quins to find their feet but they did so with devastating effect as four tries turned the tide in their favour.
First to get on the scoresheet was Guest as he charged down Robinson’s attempted clearance to touch down under the posts, Evans adding the extras on 58 minutes.
And just three minutes later Conor O’Shea was celebrating another try as some patient Quins play eventually led to Brown going over on the left, Evans this time striking the left upright with his kick.
On 65 minutes Evans’ cross-field kick had Brown in the clear for his second try, and just moments later the Kiwi fly-half was able to celebrate his centenary with a try, shrugging off the attentions of Vardnell to score and then adding the extras to bring Quins to within a point at 40-39.
And with just four minutes left Evans had the perfect ending as he scored a penalty to put Quins ahead for the first time, enough to snatch a dramatic victory.