NORTHAMPTON DESERVED victory in a full-blooded encounter on a foul night at Loftus Road.
Northampton, a distant second to Leicester at the top of the Premiership, had to win to maintain a challenge while Wasps, sixth in the table, have an eye on Europe as well as the cup final next month.
Lawrence Dallaglio, the England captain, took the night off but Tim Rodber, his international colleague, led Northampton to a bitterly fought victory after which the home supporters subjected the referee to a chorus of booing.
In a hyperactive first half, Alistair Hepher and his opposite number, Alex King, exchanged two penalties apiece within the first 16 minutes before Nick Beal broke the stalemate with a marvellous try. Receiving the ball about 40 yards from the Wasps' line, Beal beat three defenders in a jinking run, showing both speed and flair, to cross for the only try of the half in the 26th minute.
The referee, Stuart Piercy, was particularly sensitive about high tackling although on several occasions his interpretation of an illegal challenge was harsh in the extreme. When Trevor Leota was deemed to have committed a high tackle in the 32nd minute, Hepher kicked his third penalty to put Northampton 14-6 ahead.
However, four minutes later there was no doubting the severity of Pat Lam's high and dangerous tackle on Mark Denney. The Saints No 8 was dispatched to the sin-bin, King kicked the resultant penalty and added a fourth on the stroke of half-time.
Wasps lost their No 8 Joe Worsley to the sin-bin in the 47th minute although four minutes later King landed his fifth penalty to put his side ahead for the first time. It did not last long. Northampton, after Beal had made another surging run, exploited Worsley's absence to score their second try. Wasps were unable to control a scrum near their own line and Lam, released on the short side, crashed over. Hepher converted from the touchline and kicked a fourth penalty to seal victory.
Wasps: Penalties A King 5. Northampton: Tries N Beal, P Lam; Conversions A Hepher. Penalties Hepher 4.
Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sampson, F Waters, M Denney (N Greenstock, 72), S Roiser; A King, M Friday; D Molloy, T Leota (S Mitchell, 57), W Green (capt), S Shaw, A Reed, E Rollitt (J Ions, 72), J Worsley, P Volley.
Northampton: N Beal; C Moir, A Northey, C Allen, B Cohen; A Hepher, M Dawson; M Volland, F Mendez, M Stewart, J Phillips, T Rodber (capt), D MacKinnon (G Seely, 57), P Lam, B Pountney.
Referee: S Piercy (Hull).