Leicester continued their 100 per cent start to the new Aviva Premiership season as they came from behind at Sandy Park to beat Exeter thanks largely to the boot of Freddie Burns.
The Leicester new boy kicked 11 points off the tee and controlled the game expertly with ball in hand as Richard Cockerill’s men were forced to dig deep against Exeter.
Leicester experienced the worst possible start at Sandy Park as try-machine Vereniki Goneva received a yellow card after only five minutes for a high tackle out wide.
The indiscretion handed the Chiefs the initiative and they made Leicester pay as after a series of drives and near misses, flanker Dave Ewers fought his way over from close range, with Exeter No.10 Gareth Steenson adding the extras.
With the man advantage Exeter should have gone further in front as they continued to pile on the pressure, but tenacious Leicester tackling saw the visitors hold firm under intense attacking scrutiny.
Against the run of play Leicester fought their way back into the game on 26 minutes, knowing a penalty was already coming, Tigers fly-half Freddie Burns placed through a grubber kick and centre Anthony Allen was quickest to react, dotting down before the ball went out of play.
Burns then ensured Leicester, who have won on their last three visits to Sandy Park, enjoyed parity as he continued his impressive start to the season off the tee, striking over the conversion.
The initiative then swung back the way of Exeter, who prior to kick-off had only won one of their last six home games, as scrum-half Haydn Thomas sniped over from close-range on 32 minutes, with Steenson adding the extras.
Burns struck two further penalties before the break on 36 and 40 minutes to give Leicester hope of a fightback, with Steenson slotting one of his own in between to leave the score 17-13 at the break.
Recent history suggested an away win as the Chiefs have failed to overcome the Tigers in any of their last four outings.
And the Tigers, who have not been behind in a Premiership game at the break since January, appeared to have read that script perfectly as Burns scored an early penalty in the second-half.
Leicester got their noses in front for the first time on 56 minutes – key to the change in lead was the kicking game of Burns out of hand – as the England scrum-half scored for the Tigers.
Despite his dominance out of hand with the ball, Burns was unable to add the extras for Leicester as they went 21-17 in front.
Exeter thought they had scored a try of their own on the hour mark as Ben White dived over following a storming run from Ian Whitten down the flank, but referee JP Doyle adjudged the ball to have been knocked-on in the build up.
Steenson set up a nervous finale as he landed a penalty with nine minutes remaining to drag Exeter back to within a point of the Tigers.
But a yellow card for Ewers on 74 minutes saw Leicester wrestle back the momentum, and replacement Owen Williams sealed the win with just two minutes remaining as he slotted over a Tigers penalty to give his side the safety net of a four-point lead.