Worcester Warriors leapfrogged Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table after Craig Willis’ late missed conversion saw the visitors record a rare away victory at Kingston Park.
In a closely fought battle between two teams at the wrong end of the table, Falcons looked to have snatched the win when Rob Vickers crossed on his 200th appearance on 72 minutes.
But Willis, taking on kicking duties in place of Andy Goode who had already departed the pitch, was off target with his kick and the Falcons were unable to find another breakthrough in the remaining minutes.
It meant Worcester, who scored a try in each half through Dewald Potgieter and Bryce Heem, moved up to tenth after completing the double over their opponents this season.
With freezing conditions at Kingston Park, it took a while for both teams to get going with early knocks on leading to a number of scrums.
But it was the hosts and Goode who posted the first points of the night on 15 minutes when Worcester were penalised 25m out and the Falcons man duly stepped up to slot over his kick, although he was off target with another shortly afterwards from 40 metres out.
Worcester’s Heem and Cooper Vuna both tried to make some space but it was Newcastle who continued to threaten more in attack.
And Lady Luck appeared to be shining down on the Falcons when Goode’s third penalty of the night went over off the woodwork to take the lead to 6-0 after 31 minutes.
Worcester got a chance to reduce the arrears five minutes later when play was brought back for an earlier penalty but Tom Heathcote was unable to dissect the posts.
However the visitors’ tails were up and a clever chip and chase from Vuna combined with pressure from Francois Hougaard saw them win a penalty which Heathcote sent to the corner.
And from the resulting line out on the near side, Warriors grabbed the first try of the match as a driving maul pushed aside the Newcastle defence to leave Potgieter to go over on 38 minutes.
Heathcote duly converted a minute later meaning Worcester headed into the break with a narrow one point advantage.
The visitors came out on the attack after the break, with Heem stopped in his tracks 20 metres out before a penalty again set them up with line out just metres from Newcastle’s line.
And there was almost a second try of the night as Hougaard found himself under a mountain of players close to the post but the TMO ruled no try, although a Heathcote penalty stretched the lead to four.
However there was frustration for the Worcester camp as indiscipline in defence resulted in Goode then reducing that to a single point again on 53 minutes.
The match was becoming a real battle although quick play from Worcester saw Wynand Olivier dance through the middle and win a penalty, but Worcester were unable to make the resulting line out count.
But they maintained the pressure in Newcastle’s 22 and a passing move from left to right saw Heem receive the ball, dummy to pass before holding off a tackle to cross in the near corner on the hour mark.
Heathcote was unable to add the extras as the ball bounced back off the post but the Warriors were still 15-9 up with 20 left to play.
With their 2016 home record in danger, Newcastle were not prepared to throw in the towel just yet and they were given a helping hand on 71 minutes when Gerrit-Jan Van Velze was sinbinned for Worcester.
And just a minute later, the hosts made the advantage count when a big push towards the line from a line out resulted in Vickers being awarded the try by the TMO.
With regular kicker Goode off the pitch, attention turned to Willis but he was unable to convert to leave Worcester still ahead by a point with seven minutes left.
The drama increased again on 76 minutes when the numbers were levelled following a yellow for Marcus Watson after a deliberate knock on, but Worcester held on for a valuable win.