Gareth Steenson and Henry Slade’s combined kicking talents helped Exeter Chiefs deny a spirited second-half fightback by Gloucester Rugby in an enthralling clash at Kingsholm.
After Steenson’s early penalty, the hosts surged into a 12-3 lead through tries by Jonny May and Dan Murphy while the Chiefs had Ian Whitten in the bin.
Despite eventually losing his perfect record for the season, another sublime kicking display by Steenson pulled the visitors level before flanker Ben White dived over from close range.
Slade then landed two impressive long-distance penalties either side of a yellow card for Gloucester’s Matt Kvesic and the half-time whistle to give his team a 25-12 lead.
Silone Kalafamoni’s try just after the hour and a conversion and penalty from fly-half James Hook ultimately proved in vain as the hosts fell to their second defeat of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
Steenson slotted a penalty in the third minute before Whitten was sent to the bin after referee Matthew Carley judged the Irishman had not shown due care in taking out opposite wing Charlie Sharples in the air.
The hosts exploited their man advantage as May produced a deftly weighted chip and won the footrace against fellow winger Matt Jess to touch down, with Carley awarding the try after consulting the TMO.
The Cherry and Whites then caught the Chiefs unaware with a quickly taken lineout that set up a driving maul, allowing prop Dan Murphy to force his way over with Greig Laidlaw adding the conversion.
The Chiefs upped the tempo in response and wrestled back three points through the boot of Steenson to limit the damage to 12-6 as Whitten rejoined the field.
Steenson then lured Ross Moriarty into obstructing him with an exquisitely disguised kick and made no mistake from the tee to make it 12-9.
The first scrum of the match in the 21st minute saw Sila Puafisi penalised, allowing Steenson to level the game 12-12 with another flawless kick.
The visitors continued to benefit in the scrum with Tomas Francis forcing another penalty for his side only for Steenson to fall slightly short for his first miss of the season before enduring a huge hit from Tom Palmer.
Dave Ewers and substitute Will Chudley then combined in brilliant fashion following a neat offload by Thomas Waldrom to set up White to dive over from a few metres out, with Steenson adding the extras.
Slade took over the kicking duties for a long penalty attempt and extended his side’s lead to ten points just before half-time with a sublime strike.
The centre continued to torment the Gloucester defence at times and thought he had given his side an unassailable lead when his ball back inside saw Chudley kick through to touch down as the hosts’ defence stopped playing.
After consulting with the TMO, Carley ruled Slade’s ball had fallen marginally forward before Chudley connected, earning the home side a reprieve.
Kvesic then saw yellow moments after taking the field as he was judged to have lifted Waldrom dangerously with Slade clearing the resulting 54-metre penalty with consummate ease.
Laidlaw then pushed a penalty effort across the face of the upright before another powerful drive saw Kalamafoni surge over with Hook adding the conversion.
Yet despite a further penalty from the Welsh international after Chiefs held on in midfield, the visitors’ defence stood firm to score their second victory of the year.