Newcastle were plunged deeper into relegation trouble as a late surge saw Exeter claim a 23-13 win in their Aviva Premiership Rugby encounter at Kingston Park.
There was little to choose between the sides in the first half and it was 6-6 at the break as Jimmy Gopperth and Gareth Steenson kicked two penalties apiece.
Another Steenson penalty edged the visitors ahead after the break and, although the hosts hit back with the opening try through James Hudson, a Matt Jess try and three more penalties from Steenson sealed victory for the Chiefs.
Gopperth missed a long-range penalty for Newcastle in the second minute but he was on target five minutes later when Exeter dropped the scrum for the second time and then argued with referee Shaun Davey, which cost them 10 metres.
The lead did not last long, though, with Steenson kicking a penalty when Tane Tu’ipulotu went over the ball in the ninth minute and it was Newcastle’s turn to drop the scrum in the 15th minute, Steenson making it 6-3.
There were plenty of tussles among the forwards and twice the referee had to speak to the captains to calm their players down.
Alex Tait threatened when Micky Young broke down the right-hand side but the Falcons full-back lost control of the ball on the 22 when a real chance beckoned.
Gopperth’s second penalty for going over the ball in the 27th minute levelled the scores at 6-6 and Steenson missed a chance three minutes later from a difficult angle as the sides went in at the break all square.
Chris Budgen was lucky to escape the sin-bin after cynical late tackle as Gopperth kicked through on the Exeter 22, but Gopperth missed the penalty kick at goal and was then way short with a speculative long-range shot just on half-time.
Gopperth should have given Newcastle the lead early in the second half but missed a very kickable penalty – his fourth miss – in the 43rd minute after Exeter were offside.
Steenson’s 55th-minute penalty edged Exeter back in front at 9-6 but Newcastle suddenly found some fire and the home pack showed real patience with a series of drives to set up the try for skipper Hudson which Gopperth converted in the 61st minute.
Exeter responded almost immediately, though. Tom Johnson charged down Young’s attempted clearance and Jess shot over for a try. Steenson could not convert but he did kick a penalty seconds later to put Exeter back in the driving seat at 17-13.
Jeremy Manning, on for Gopperth, then missed a very kickable penalty with 10 minutes left and Steenson made sure of the win with his fifth successful penalty five minutes from time and turned the screw with a last-minute penalty to deny Newcastle a bonus point.