They took their time, but after slipping a dozen points adrift of their French opponents Bath battled back to earn an imposing advantage over Montferrand for the second leg of this Parker Pen Challenge Cup semi-final in a fortnight.
It was a brutal encounter which had its share of kicks, punches and cheap shots. But if Bath can avoid the sort of errors they were too prone to yesterday they should come through the return.
In one of the season's crasser moments scrum-half Martyn Wood found Olivier Magne with a scoring pass. The French flanker looked to have touched down short but, after a quick call from referee David McHugh to the video official, the try was awarded and Bath looked in trouble.
Two minutes earlier some superb handling by lock Hottie Louw, followed by an elusive run by hulking left wing Sebastien Kuzbik, had enabled Gerald Merceron to touch down. But the French were guilty of scrappy play and terrible indiscipline which ultimately cost them a player.
Before the first half was out both sides had men sin-binned. Montferrand lost No 8 Marc Raynaud for killing the ball in the 34th minute, but an unpleasant dust-up shortly before half time resulted in Bath No 8 Zak Feaunati and Montferrand tighthead prop David Attoub being shown yellow cards. Attoub further blotted his copybook 10 minutes after the interval when he was spotted by a touch-judge using his feet illegally on Bath players. That earned him a second yellow, which equated to a red card. As he left the field so the stuffing appeared to go out of the French team.
Within five minutes Bath had scored the first of their four tries when Olly Barkley was put through. Their forwards then took control, marching inexorably into opposition territory. A great run by full-back Matt Perry, back in action just five weeks after a pioneering back operation, culminated in a wonderful step inside Aurelien Rougerie and a scoring pass to Wylie Human. Barkley converted to level the match.
The Bath pack then camped five metres from the French line and a series of back-buckling scrums ensued, concluding after about a dozen with a penalty try. Flanker Andy Beattie then made Bath's task in the return leg easier when he was driven over from a line-out at the death.
Bath: M Perry; A Crockett, A Higgins (R Fleck, 65), K Maggs, W Human; O Barkley, M Wood; D Flatman, J Humphreys (capt; L Mears, 51), D Bell (M Stevens, 34), S Borthwick, R Fidler (S Gray, 79), A Beattie, I Feaunati, M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 77).
Montferrand: A Floch; A Rougerie, F Comba, T Marsh, S Kuzbik; G Merceron, J Moreau; B Moyle (R Cockerill, 79), R Cockerill (F Brandon, 68), D Attoub, E Pearce, H Louw (P Martin, 80), M Dieude (S Delpuech, 40-45, 61), M Reynaud (E Vermeulen, 75), O Magne (A Audebert, 68).
Referee: D McHugh (Ire).