Worcester Warriors made it a winning return to Aviva Premiership Rugby as Tom Heathcote’s late drop goal edged a thrilling 13-12 win over last season’s table toppers Northampton Saints at Sixways.
In a tense encounter, the hosts held a slender one point advantage going into the dying moments thanks in part to captain GJ van Velze’s first-half try.
Debutant Heathcote had missed three penalties with Ryan Mills another and Saints then appeared to have made them pay when Stephen Myler converted his fourth successful penalty of the night with two minutes remaining.
But Scotland international Heathcote held his nerve with time up to clinch the win and bring an end to their visitors’ record of winning their opening fixture of the season on each of the last nine occasions.
Saints handed starts to three of their summer signings, with England prop Kieran Brookes, lock Michael Paterson and flanker Jamie Gibson all making debuts.
Worcester were able to name former Saints back row forwards Phil Dowson and van Velze, who captained the Warriors, in their team.
Those men would be asked to play a key role in helping the Warriors adjust to their return to the top flight, but the Saints asserted their authority early on, keeping possession well.
And they were to get two early penalties on the board as their patient play put the squeeze on Worcester.
Luther Burrell's tackle on Tom Biggs was a particular highlight, with the Warriors wing forced to concede the second three points of the game.
Worcester responded well, winning a kickable penalty of their own, with Heathcote cutting the deficit in half.
The home side were causing problems for their visitors, with Biggs a real threat down the left.
Northampton turned down a kick at goal in the bid to score their first try of the season, but the Warriors defence was holding firm.
And they looked dangerous in attack, managing to break the Northampton resistance with a try from van Velze, who finished off a tidy move.
Heathcote added the extras and was soon kicking for the corner, emphasising the confidence his team were showing.
Northampton stood tall to ensure they would not fall further behind before the interval and they were soon adding another Myler penalty to their tally at the start of the second half.
Heathcote then missed the chance to restore his team's four-point lead, but Worcester were continuing to impress, piling the pressure on their opponents.
They were rattling Northampton, who could not get any territory, and the Warriors' only flaw was that their kicker was failing to hit the target.
Mills hit the post with a penalty before Heathcote fired another two wide, meaning he had missed all three of his attempts during the second period.
And Myler looked set to make him pay, keeping his nerve with a superb long-distance penalty to give Saints a two-point lead with a minute to go.
But after the away side knocked on, Heathcote was handed a drop-goal chance, and he took it to secure a stunning success for his side.
The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.