George Ford converted a late penalty try to strengthen Bath Rugby’s hold on an Aviva Premiership play-off place with a dramatic victory in a fiery encounter with West Country rivals Gloucester Rugby.
Bath saw two players yellow carded in the first half but trailed by only three points at the break as two penalties from Ford answered three from Billy Twelvetrees.
The game changed though when Sila Puafisi was shown a red card for a high tackle on Nick Abendanon and Stuart Hooper powered over for a Bath try.
A yellow card for Bath’s Dave Attwood was followed by Henry Trinder scorching over but in a crazy finish, Gloucester lost two further players to yellow cards and saw Tavis Knoyle sent-off with a penalty try, converted by Ford, handing Bath victory.
Gloucester drew first blood with a Twelvetrees penalty on four minutes after Ross Batty was penalised at the breakdown.
Bath responded with Abendanon bursting towards the posts and though Carl Fearns lost possession once the ball was recycled, Gloucester were judged to have knocked on in defence.
The visitors continued to probe the ball line looking for a gap but when the Cherry & Whites were again penalised, Ford kicked the penalty to level the match and reach 201 points for this season’s Aviva Premiership.
Bath appeared to have scored the first try of the match when Horacio Agulla cut through the Gloucester defence from a set-piece but referee Tim Wigglesworth denied the score for obstruction in the build-up.
Instead it was the hosts who retook the lead on 25 minutes with Twelvetrees kicking another three points.
Bath’s hopes of hitting back before half-time were reduced further when flanker Fearns was sent to the bin for illegally ripping the ball as Gloucester attacked, with Twelvetrees completing the punishment with another penalty.
In truth Gloucester did little else with the man advantage, affording Bath a penalty from which they cut the deficit back to three points.
Twelvetrees struck a post with another penalty attempt and Ford led a Bath breakaway but the visitors shot themselves in the foot again when Matt Garvey was sent to the bin for a high tackle on No.8 Gareth Evans.
Evans was replaced by England No.8 Ben Morgan at half-time and Bath should have levelled the game up three minutes after the interval but Ford’s penalty attempt drifted left of the posts.
Ford attempted to repair the damage two minutes later but his drop-goal attempt came back off the post.
Having failed to take any great advantage of Bath twice being down to 14 men, Gloucester saw one of their own men sent from the match when Puafisi was red-carded for a high tackle on Abendanon.
Bath took immediate advantage of their extra man as they rumbled over the Gloucester line with captain Hooper touching down, though Ford’s failure to convert left the door open for Gloucester.
By now the game was operating with uncontested scrums and Gloucester continued to create opportunities but Twelvetrees saw a long-range penalty attempt drift wide.
However, the Cherry & Whites were again given a leg-up in the game when Attwood was sin-binned for not releasing and Twelvetrees bisected the posts to put his side 12-11 up.
And Gloucester struck a decisive blow with ten minutes remaining when fine work from Mike Tindall allowed centre partner Trinder to tear over for a try.
Again the conversion was spurned, Twelvetrees firing wide, to leave the game on a knife edge.
In a frantic finish Tindall was yellow carded for an infringement at the breakdown after Jonny May hauled down Abendanon as he charged towards the try line and Huia Edmonds was then sent to the bin 30 seconds later.
Anthony Perenise was then bundled into touch as he rumbled towards the Gloucester line.
There was still time for more drama as with Bath motoring towards the whitewash, referee Wigglesworth awarded a penalty try.
A melee followed that saw Gloucester scrum-half Knoyle sent off as the Cherry & Whites finished with just 11 players and a losing bonus point.