Bath Rugby made their first-half dominance count at the Rec but only just as a dogged Saracens fell to defeat for just the second time in their last 17 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches.
The home side, who controlled much of the first half, entered the break with just a three-point advantage, as Sean Maitland struck back for Saracens after Max Clark’s try and two Tom Homer penalties.
In a mark of champions, however, Saracens refused to buckle and Alex Lozowski’s drop-goal got them back on level terms early in the second half.
Ultimately the superb Homer’s third penalty of the day settled the game as Bath’s defence handled everything a Saracens side, including a fit-again Maro Itoje, could throw at them.
But the Rec crowd had their hearts in their mouths at the death before watching Lozowski’s final penalty attempt fail to reach the posts.
The penalty is short and Bath win 14-11! #AllezBath
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) December 3, 2016
Bath started the brightest and Homer slotted an early penalty after a rampaging run from Taulupe Faletau deep into Saracens territory.
The Wales No.8 continued to look like Bath’s biggest threat but Saracens’ line, bending rather than breaking, stopped the hosts from pressing home their advantage.
Indeed the reigning champions had done well to hang on until Lozowski levelled up the scores from the tee after Bath were pinged at the lineout.
Bath re-established their lead through Homer’s boot at the end of the first quarter – and then grabbed the try that their efforts had deserved.
Australia centre Ben Tapuai opened up the space with a superb dummy for his fellow midfield man Clark to score his first-ever try in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Homer’s missed conversion left the score at 11-3, though Bath continued to look the most likely to score as Aled Brew looked clear before being called back for a knock-on, and Schalk Burger then won a key penalty for an under-pressure Saracens.
Tom Ellis then got his body in the way to prevent a certain Saracens try but the visitors struck back before the first half was out through Maitland – the 2013 Lion squeezing home in the corner.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 3, 2016
Lozowski missed the conversion but made amends early in the second half with a sumptuous drop-goal to level it up at 11-11.
A trademark Semesa Rokoduguni break returned Bath to the ascendancy and though they were stopped a whisker from the try-line, Lozowski was yellow carded for a high tackle on Dan Bowden in the build-up.
Homer smashed through the resultant penalty but a tenacious Saracens came back again, Alex Goode missing a shot at goal before Jim Hamilton and then Vincent Koch were held up just short of the try-line.
Much of the last ten minutes was played in Bath’s territory, though full-back Homer – who had also put in a tireless defensive shift – released the pressure with a break.
There was time for Lozowski to have another pot at goal in the dying seconds but to the relief of the Rec, his penalty fell short.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) December 3, 2016