Saracens’ Heineken Cup ambitions all but died at Vicarage Road as Racing battled back from 8-0 down to win an exciting Pool 2 tie 24-21.
For Saracens, this was effectively a must-win game in their bid to qualify from the pool, having lost at Clermont Auvergne and again at Wembley, where they played Leinster.
Racing, led by former Sale favourite Sebastien Chabal, knew that victory would propel them into contention but it was the home side who took up the early running, forcing Racing into their 22 where they lasted until the sixth minute before Saracens unlocked their defence with a splendid try.
Chris Wyles made a break from deep, and following passes between Mouritz Botha, Andy Saull and David Strettle, Noah Cato scored on the right. Owen Farrell's conversion attempt flew wide of the near post. He had more success with his second shot at goal, a penalty on 13 minutes, to reward a rousing start by Saracens.
Racing got on the scoreboard in the 15th minute with a penalty by fly-half Jon Wisniewski, awarded for offside. Their game lifted immediately and it was the turn of Saracens to make their tackles count.
Referee Alain Rolland took exception to one tackle that looked a shade high, and South African centre Francois Steyn – famed for his long-range kicking – boomed the penalty over from inside his own half.
Racing were then gifted a try on 24 minutes as Sereli Bobo took a pass from Chabal and chip-kicked towards the right-hand corner. Brad Barritt tried to flick the ball inside for James Short, but only succeeded in passing to Juan Martin Hernandez who scored from close range. Wisniewski added the extras.
Racing were quick to pick up the tempo again at the start of the second half but Saracens were first to get an opportunity to score as Farrell's 51st-minute penalty hooked wide of the near post.
Within minutes, the remarkable Steyn increased Racing's lead with a penalty from fully 60 yards. Farrell made amends for his miss on 57 minutes with a 40-yarder that clipped in off the inside of the left-hand post.
But Racing took exception to a penalty awarded in the 64th minute for a breakdown offence, and their dissent, led by skipper Chabal, earned a 10-yard march which turned the award into a kickable penalty – and Farrell duly delivered to cut the deficit to two points.
Saracens supporters were still celebrating when Wisniewski restored the five-point margin with a snap drop-goal as their opponents were guilty of a momentary lapse in concentration.
It looked like game, set and match in the 69th minute when Chabal and Wisniewski set up Bobo for what proved a fine solo try, helped by weak Saracens tackling.
Strettle had other ideas, forcing Racing deep with a searing break that required a double tackle to halt. Racing knocked on in the process five yards from their line and had to produce rock-solid defence. But Saracens were not finished. Waves after wave of attacks ended with a stirring try by Barritt in the right-hand corner three minutes from time, Farrell converting.