Worcester gave their GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP survival hopes a colossal boost by fighting back to stun Newcastle at Sixways.
The Warriors looked down and out at half-time, trailing 21-6 after Falcons scored three converted tries through flanker Ben Woods (2) and hooker Matt Thompson.
But they rallied magnificently as substitute hooker Aleki Lutui claimed two tries before his fellow replacement Gavin Quinnell rumbled over deep into injury time.
Newcastle, though, should have snatched victory with the game’s final kick, but fly-half Loki Crichton, who had earlier slotted three conversions, missed a 20-metre penalty from in front of the posts.
As the kick drifted wide, so Worcester started celebrating as they climbed off the Premiership basement for the first time this season.
Worcester are now one point above Northampton, who have two games in hand, with Warriors’ league campaign just three matches – against Bristol, London Irish and Saracens – away from its conclusion.
It was a remarkable finale to a nerve-jangling contest, yet Worcester remain in there fighting with renewed hope of staying up.
Worcester made a promising start, moving ahead inside two minutes through a Shane Drahm penalty, but Newcastle hit back to take the lead within 60 seconds of the full-back’s strike.
Woods made the most of some abject Worcester defensive work by galloping over from 25 metres, yet Warriors failed to learn their listen, and with Falcons skipper Matt Burke orchestrating Newcastle’s attacking game a second score soon followed.
The tackling was again non-existent, and Woods once more proved the beneficiary, powering past some pitifully token defence for his second touchdown that Crichton converted for a 14-3 lead.
Worcester were stunned by Newcastle’s quickfire double, and the visitors almost moved out sight 10 minutes before the break when substitute Joe Shaw went for broke but was denied by a stunning Dale Rasmussen tackle.
Rasmussen’s colleagues could not follow his example though, and Newcastle added a third score as half-time approached when quickly recycled possession enabled them to work space out wide, allowing Thompson a straightforward score.
Newcastle, winning turnover ball with monotonous regularity, had taken their chances superbly, leaving Worcester with a mountain to climb as they trailed 21-6 at the interval.
Worcester could have expected a fearful dressing room lecture from rugby director John Brain, but it had the desired effect.
They cut the deficit to eight points midway through the third quarter, establishing a sufficiently imposing forward platform that saw Lutui capitalise.
Drahm’s conversion gave the Warriors a glimmer of hope, and with Newcastle struggling to recapture their early fluency, Worcester could sense a way back.
Worcester knew it was a case of cutting out errors and staying composed, yet while they enjoyed a territorial edge, Newcastle encountered few problems repelling an often lateral Warriors attacking game.
It proved a different matter though, when Worcester kept possession tight through the forwards.
Lock Craig Gillies won a 68th-minute lineout after Worcester sacrificed a kickable penalty to go for the corner, and skipper Matt Powell’s decision reaped its reward when Lutui crashed across for his second touchdown.
Drahm narrowly failed to add the extras, yet the try set up a gripping finale with Warriors only 21-18 adrift.
Lutui looked to have claimed his hat-trick five minutes from time, but referee Martin Fox ruled that a Newcastle defender had got underneath him.
Newcastle could not hold out until the final whistle though, and Quinnell showcased all his raw power to notch a stirring victory, but only after Crichton’s last-gasp penalty shocker.