A Steve Mafi try three minutes from time rescued Leicester from defeat at Kingston Park after Newcastle had scored three tries and Tigers centre Billy Twelvetrees missed a hatful of kicks.
The defeat leaves Newcastle anchored at the foot of the table and they will count themselves hard done by in the closing stages especially in the final seconds when the referee could easily have awarded them a potential match-winning penalty.
Newcastle started with a bang both Greg Goosen and Jimmy Gopperth scything through but Leicester's scrambling defence was good at the expense of a penalty which Gopperth knocked over after just two minutes.
It took the Tigers just three minutes to draw level with a Twelvetrees penalty and he looked to have made it 6-3 with an 11th-minute kick, but the touch judges thought not. The referee thought he had – and it looked close – but the video replay backed the touch judges.
Gopperth knocked over a 15th-minute penalty for 6-3 after Newcastle had gone close to the line with a series of drives, but a try four minutes later from lock Ed Slater after a good Tigers move from right to left made it 8-6 before Newcastle hit back with an equally slick move involving James Fitzpatrick, Alex Tait and Grant Shiells before Goosen rocketed through to make it 11-8 in the 25th minute.
Twelvetrees levelled the scores with a 28th-minute penalty and just before the break Newcastle bombed a real chance for a second try after opting for a scrum instead of a penalty, but with Leicester under pressure, number eight Richard Mayhew spilled the ball and Leicester almost scored at the other end when Scott Hamilton and Mafi swept away.
Somehow, Newcastle got back to smother the attack at the expense of a penalty after a couple of abortive scrum pushover attempts. The Tigers opted to kick at goal only for Twelvetrees to miss it and leave the half-time score tied at 11-11.
He missed another chance shortly after the restart and Newcastle made Leicester pay when Gopperth belted a long penalty into touch. The following catch and drive and patient recycling ended with Tim Swinson crashing through and Gopperth converted for 18-11.
Newcastle shot themselves in the foot with some bad tackling to allow Julian Salvi through for a 53rd-minute try and the scores should have been level, but Twelvetrees hit the post with the conversion before kicking a straight-on penalty three minutes later for 19-18.
Back came Newcastle through Fitzpatrick and Tait and a 60th-minute penalty for offside was the result for Gopperth to put Newcastle back in front 21-19, but the match see-sawed again when Twelvetrees nailed a penalty for wheeling the scrum to make it 22-21.
In a pulsating match, Gopperth chipped ahead and Luke Fielden got there first – but only after confirmation from the video official – for a try which made it 26-22 with 15 minutes left.
With three minutes remaining, there was still just four points in it and Leicester inched their way up to the Newcastle line and put the squeeze on at three successive scrums before engineering a gap for Mafi to score the winning try.
With seconds left on the clock, Newcastle had a chance of a drop-goal shot but the pass to Gopperth was a poor one and he had no choice other than to run it. When he was tackled, it was Leicester awarded a penalty for not releasing.