Newcastle fielded an inexperienced side – Wilkinson was missing with a groin strain picked up in training during the week, while Colin Charvis was on international duty and Cory Harris was also absent after his wife went into labour.
The visitors were in trouble at the first scrum and were penalised for taking it down and Glen Jackson kicked the penalty after only two minutes.
It looked like the fly-half must score when he fielded Matt Burke’s kick with a mark and took the tap quickly and cut right through – had it not been for Tom May getting a hand to his pass to Tevita Vaikona, it would have been a try.
There would also have been a score if Dan Scarbrough had not fired the ball forward when he cut through – they were both real let-offs for the Falcons.
But then Dave Walder stepped inside and his pass to Toby Flood went inches wide right on the Saracens line – followed by Burke sliding through on the outside run, only to be caught on the 22-metre line.
The Falcons paid dearly for losing their own lineout in the 17th minute – and Saracens whipped the ball along the line for Mark Bartholomeusz to put Richard Haughton clear and the winger and scored easily.
But then Newcastle did win a lineout, drove it well and Burke joined the line to time the pass perfectly for James Hoyle to score in the corner.
They should have scored again when James Grindal sent May away on a 70-metre run from his own half but the support was slow in arriving.
Jason Smithson dived in to give away the penalty and Saracens rumbled it from the lineout and forced another penalty and Jackson’s kick made it 13-5.
Newcastle made a mess of another line-out, again throwing it long on their own line and Mike McCarthy knocked on.
It came as no surprise when Saracens piled on the pressure at seven successive scrums which the Falcons survived at the expense of Micky Ward being sinbinned – but the ball was worked wide and Haughton scrambled over for his second try.
Flood made another run through the middle and Burke was stopped just inside the 22 before the Aussie kicked a penalty right on half time to make it 20-8.
There was not much action early in the first half but Newcastle worked their way back into it and in the 60th minute, Burke hoisted a high kick, chased it and caught it magnificently to charge in from 30 metres for a try.
But then Jackson returned the compliment with a bomb right on the Falcons line which Lee Dickson could not take – and Jackson was on hand to gather and score.
Newcastle should have scored when Mathew Tait swept right with Joe Shaw outside but Tait opted to go for the gap when a pass out might have brought a better result.
Then, in almost a repeat move, Tait’s reverse pass saw Shaw crash over to make it 27-18 with five minutes to go – but Saracens snuffed out any further Falcons progress.