Shane Geraghty kept his cool to hand London Irish their first win at Welford Road since 2003 as Leicester Tigers missed the opportunity to bounce back from last weekend’s record defeat.
Geraghty was the more composed of two goal-kickers early on, as England fly-half Freddie Burns missed a pair of penalties.
That wastefulness was punished before the break as prop Halani Aulika bundled over the opening try, sending the Exiles into the break in control.
Niki Goneva hit back for the hosts, desperate to bounce back from last weekend’s 45-0 humbling at the hands of Bath Rugby – Leicester’s heaviest every Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat.
Geraghty opened up a lead once more only for Owen Williams’ long-range effort to apparently salvage a draw – until the London Irish centre put the final nail in the coffin from the tee.
Desperate to fly out the blocks and banish the memories of last weekend, Leicester were stifled early on and found themselves behind after six minutes, courtesy of a Geraghty penalty.
Things almost got worse for Leicester with a well-worked Irish move seeing James Short cross over in the corner, but the TMO ruled Leonardo Ghiralidini was obstructed in the build-up.
Freddie Burns sent his first penalty of the afternoon narrowly wide and Geraghty soon made him pay for it, bisecting the posts to double the lead just a minute later.
The Leicester fly-half made the same mistake on 20-minute mark after a big chase from Miles Benjamin and Julian Salvi earned a second penalty, before a collapsed scrum won a third.
The hosts opted for touch on this occasion but the decision did not pay off, Irish turning over possession and soon surging up the other end, only for Blair Cowan to concede a penalty inside the Leicester half.
Burns finally broke his duck for the afternoon with a simple penalty after half an hour but the Tigers were soon defending their own line once more.
Alex Lewington – fresh from a hat-trick against Saracens last weekend – dived for the corner after a slick move, but he was pushed into touch by Owen Williams.
However, they didn’t have to wait long for that elusive try, Aulika capitalising from a powerful catch-and-drive to bundle over and Geraghty adding a tricky conversion.
That stirred the Tigers and Williams, Ben Youngs and Goneva each took turns to power over the gain line – defending desperately, Geraghty saw yellow at the breakdown and Burns reduced the deficit to seven.
A nervy final two minutes for Chris Noakes saw the Kiwi fly-half miss a long-range penalty and suffer a charge-down inside his own half, but the Exiles escaped unscathed.
Burns and Geraghty’s traded penalties early in the second half but the hosts’ first try of the afternoon hauled them within two points of the Exiles.
Goneva’s cheeky dart from the breakdown caught Irish by surprise and after he dotted down in the corner, Burns’ tricky conversion levelled things up.
Another Geraghty penalty restored the lead shortly before Burns missed his third of the afternoon but it was Williams, taking over the kicking duties, who levelled things up from more than 50 metres.
Irish earned yet another penalty at scrum-time and Geraghty sought to match Williams’ effort, pointing to the posts from halfway only to see his effort bounce back off the crossbar.
The Exiles centre would, however, be handed a reprieve two minutes from time, sending a simple penalty between the posts to seemingly have the final say.
And after a sharp Leicester break threatened to turn the tables once more, Goneva’s knock-on ensured they would lose at Welford Road for the first time since November 2013.