Jamie Elliott came off the bench to grab a dramatic late try and secure a memorable Aviva Premiership rugby victory for Northampton Saints.
Minutes after Saints skipper Dylan Hartley saw red his side were behind, courtesy of a penalty try, but Leicester Tigers didn’t have it all their own way.
A couple of Stephen Myler penalties kept them in the hunt and Alex Waller scored after the break to hand them an unlikely lead.
Niki Goneva hit back before Ben Foden once again put Northampton ahead, only for Goneva’s second of the afternoon to turn the game on its head once more – but Elliott arrived at the death to steal victory.
Northampton hit the ground running and George North was almost on hand to finish an early break, a last-ditch Owen Williams tackle the only thing standing between the Wales winger and an opening try after three minutes.
With a stiff breeze behind him Ben Youngs sent a massive clearance into the Saints half to relieve the pressure and the visitors slowly worked their way into the contest.
Owen Williams had the opportunity to put them ahead shortly before the quarter-hour mark, but kicked wide of the target from distance after Leicester were awarded a penalty at scrum-time.
A sharp Tigers break and excellent work from Goneva on the touchline took them within five metres of the Northampton line but the move was halted amid tempers flaring from both sides.
The Saints were reduced to 14 to men, Hartley shown red for striking Leicester centre Matt Smith on his own line and the numerical advantage told almost immediately.
The Leicester pack – crammed full of international experience with Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Dan Cole and Tom Youngs each returning to fitness in recent weeks – asserted its dominance and earned a penalty try, which Williams converted.
Myler pulled three points back from the tee after Parling was penalised by referee JP Doyle for a high tackle and there was no sign of the hosts lying down.
North powered his way over the halfway line on half an hour and when Jordan Crane was caught off his feet at the ruck, Myler sent a kickable penalty to the corner.
That chance went unconverted but Northampton returned on the stroke of half-time and when Croft was penalised for his second high tackle of the game, Myler brought them within one point.
Northampton started the second half as they did the first and this time they got their reward, spreading the ball out wide for prop Waller to sell a dummy and fly over.
James Wilson’s conversion slipped wide from the left touchline and Myler soon followed suit from a similar position after a powerful Saints scrum had earned a penalty.
Leicester punished those misses on the hour mark, replacement Freddie Burns dancing through the defence and Goneva eventually powering over – but Williams sliced the conversion well wide.
The one-point lead didn’t last long as sharp hands from Myler found replacement Foden, who weaved his way home from 30 metres out.
Another conversion went begging and soon enough the game swing back in the Tigers’ favour, a smart turnover setting up Miles Benjamin to tear his way into the Northampton half.
That created a hug overlap on the left and it was Goneva waiting patiently to cross over again, this time Burns adding the extra points.
But there was further drama to come, Northampton knocking at the door and eventually finding Elliot on the left wing to fly over.
Myler sent a tricky kick straight between the posts – opening up a four-point lead in the process – and that was enough to secure a dramatic triumph.
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