However, their lead was only on points difference from their main rivals Worcester, who ground out a hard-fought 14-12 home victory over London Welsh, a team with promotion pretensions of their own.
Rob Myler, with his seventh league try of the season, supplied Worcester's only touchdown but the former Leicester full-back John Liley was on target with three penalties to squeeze out the Exiles. The former Great Britain rugby league centre Andy Currier, lifting his try tally for the campaign to seven, and the wing Scott Roskell each went over for London Welsh.
Rotherham consolidated third place with a 25-10 home success over Leeds - the fifth meeting between these Yorkshire neighbours this season. A hat-trick by their back-row forward Ben Wade lifted him to second in the division's try-scoring list.
Richard Baxter, another flanker, also claimed three tries as Exeter saw off visitors Fylde 42-10, and there were home wins for Moseley, Wakefield and Waterloo over Blackheath, Orrell and Rugby, respectively.
Manchester strengthened their points-difference advantage at the top of Jewson National League One with a 41-0 thrashing of Reading. Steve Swindells weighed in with a brace of tries and three successful conversions. Still on Manchester's heels, though, are Henley, who had a slightly more taxing afternoon before beating visitors Morley 24-13.
Pontypridd continued their impressive run in the Welsh Challenge Trophy by inflicting a 52-10 defeat on Canada in which Neil Jenkins, as reliable as ever, kicked 22 points. In the day's other match, Ebbw Vale proved too strong for Romania, sweeping them aside 28-0.
A 23-12 defeat of West of Scotland helped Heriot's FP to extend their lead in the Tennent's Velvet Premiership to seven points over Glasgow Hawks whose 26-8 eclipse of Currie lifted them above Melrose who went down in a 27-25 thriller at Hawick for whom Neil Douglas scored three tries.
Lansdowne went top of the AIB League in Ireland with a 41-15 victory over Blackrock College. The previous leaders Garryowen, Buccaneers, who beat them 16-10, and St Mary's, 46-17 winners at Clontarf, are joint second, two points behind.Reuse content