Seven penalties from Barry Everitt sent unimpressive Newcastle crashing to a 26-21 home defeat at Kingston Park.
The outcome was what the Falcons deserved after they conceded a stack of penalties and transgressed throughout the match.
Newcastle made a bold start despite the pouring rain at Kingston Park and both Mark Mayerhofler and Tim Visser went close in a pulsating opening.
But they had to settle for only a Matt Burke penalty which was quickly matched by London Irish fly-half Everitt when Newcastle infringed at the restart.
Everitt made it 6-3 in the 10th minute after needless obstruction by Newcastle after Tim Visser had tracked back to collect a kick ahead by Rikki Flutey.
But then Visser scored an outstanding try – his third in three games – when he raced on to Toby Flood’s crossfield kick and snatched the ball almost out of Topsy Ojo’s grasp. Burke added the extras.
Newcastle lost the ball from the restart again and conceded another penalty which Everitt kicked to narrow the gap to one point.
And when David Wilson went over the ball once to often, he was shown the yellow card by referee Martin Fox.
London Irish took immediate advantage of the extra man with a swiftly delivered ball from a pulverising ruck and Flutey scampered through for a try.
Everitt missed the straightforward conversion but Newcastle’s rising penalty count was proving costly as the London Irish fly-half slotted his fourth kick for pulling down at a maul and his fifth for offside to make it 20-10.
A rare penalty in Newcastle’s favour saw Burke narrow the gap to 20-13 from just inside the London Irish half.
Visser produced another positive run down the left and Flood’s clever kick put Newcastle on the offensive early in the second half. Their line-out, which had failed to function effectively in the first half, finally got it together to win the ball.
Mike McCarthy was hauled down just short as London Irish conceded a penalty infield and Burke kicked his third penalty for 20-16.
Everitt made that 23-16, and after two missed Burke penalties Newcastle looked
dead and buried.
But Mayerhofler then scrambled over for a try, allowing Burke the chance to draw the teams level with his conversion attempt from wide on the right.
However another miss allowed London Irish to stay ahead and with six minutes remaining Newcastle conceded another penalty in their own 22 and Everitt slotted his seventh kick at goal.