Dan Hipkiss was Leicester’s match winner with a try that broke Northampton hearts in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP match at Welford Road.
England international Hipkiss had missed the previous two games through injury – but he struck a crucial late blow in a hard fought east Midlands derby when he crossed with just eight minutes left.
That try edged Leicester back in front at 21-19 and they added eight points in the closing moments with Toby Flood’s penalty and try.
Leicester were heading for back-to-back home defeats when Stephen Myler’s penalty with the last kick of the first half put the visitors 16-9 ahead at the break.
Northampton had thrown away half-time leads in their previous two away games and Leicester drew level at 16-16.
Myler kicked a penalty with 11 minutes left to put Northampton back in front before Leicester hit back in the closing minutes.
Leicester head coach Heyneke Meyer welcomed back England internationals Harry Ellis and Hipkiss as his team’s bid to respond following Friday night’s defeat at home to bitter rivals Wasps.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder made five changes after his side’s 26-12 defeat at Saracens, but it was Leicester who got off to the perfect start with Flood converting a second-minute penalty.
Leicester were dealt a blow in the 10th minute when Boris Stankovich was yellow carded following a stamp on Euan Murray.
Myler drew Northampton level in the 11th minute and after Flood kicked Leicester back in front Northampton went ahead in the 17th minute through Murray’s try.
Myler’s conversion put the visitors 10-6 ahead and a 23rd-minute penalty put the Saints seven points clear.
Flood trimmed the gap to 13-9 before Myler’s late dead ball effort put Northampton seven clear at the break.
Leicester were on the front foot at the start of the second half and they were level in the 56th minute.
Johne Murphy was sent over by Ellis and Flood’s conversion levelled the scores.
Myler put Northampton back in front with 11 minutes left – before Leicester finished strongest to emerge victorious.