Tom Homer’s nerves of steel gave Bath Rugby back-to-back wins for the first time in this season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby, with Mike Delany seeing one drop-goal attempt slip wide and another two charged down in a grandstand finish at the Rec.
Semesa Rokoduguni’s brilliant quick-fire double saw the hosts into the break ahead, despite Newcastle’s first-half dominance and Rob Vickers’ early score.
And despite there being no tries after the break, the Bath crowd were treated to a thrilling second-half and Homer sent over two penalties in the last ten minutes to win it, with Delaney’s four second-half penalties not enough for the Falcons.
Kyle Eastmond’s last-minute withdrawal saw Matt Banahan switch to inside centre for Bath with Max Clark coming in outside him.
And it was the latter who made the early running, incisively breaking through and carrying into the Newcastle half before the visitors were pinged at scrum-time and Tom Homer had the chance to open the scoring.
His long-range fourth-minute effort drifted right of the posts however, and it was Newcastle who scored the game’s opening try.
After the Falcons turned the scrum to earn a penalty, Mike Delany’s kick earned his side a lineout on the five-metre line and after a couple more penalties, loosehead Vickers was able to pick up and burrow his way over the line.
Delany’s excellent conversion from out wide made it 7-0, and Newcastle were not done there as they launched another ferocious attack almost immediately.
Marcus Watson’s brilliant feet saw him break through and only a last-ditch tackle from Banahan stopped him crossing the whitewash.
Newcastle were causing carnage in the Bath half and after forcing a turnover at the breakdown, breaks from Juan Pablo Socino, Simon Hammersley and Mouritz Botha ended with a Falcons penalty on the right, but Delany could not extend their advantage.
The pressure was still building however, and after a cheeky 25th-minute lineout George McGuigan saw his try in the left corner ruled out – with his hand just creeping into touch before he had touched down.
But for all their possession Newcastle could not make their chances count, and they were made to pay when Dom Day stole a 29th-minute lineout.
And after Bath had progressed into the Falcons’ 22, an ambitious cross-field kick by Ollie Devoto was remarkably controlled by Rokoduguni off his shin before he gathered the ball to dot down, and Homer’s conversion levelled the scores at 7-7.
With Newcastle shell-shocked, Rokoduguni took full advantage and was fed by Francois Louw to score again in the corner, sending the Falcons in at the interval scratching their heads as to how they were behind.
Scrum pressure from the visitors allowed Delany to bring the score back to 12-10 on 46 minutes with a penalty, before Bath hit back with Banahan’s brilliant pass to Leroy Houston starting off a superb passage of attack, and Homer was rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts.
But the hosts were then immediately penalised for not rolling away and Delany was on target from 40-metres out.
Ill-discipline again cost Bath on the hour mark as both Louw and Henry Thomas saw yellow in quick succession, and Delany kicked the Falcons into a 19-15 lead going into the final 15 minutes.
But Homer was the man to hold his nerves for Bath, nailing two straight penalties for the hosts to send them in front with Louw returning to the field and Scott Lawson going the other way to level up the numbers.
Newcastle threw waves and waves of forward pressure at the home defence, and despite Delaney’s three late attempts for a match-winning drop goal, Bath clung on meaning the Falcons remain as one of only two sides yet to win away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.