Leicester were close to being on the wrong end of a major upset before indiscipline undermined Treviso's hopes and handed the Tigers an escape route that lifted them to the top of Pool Two of the Heineken Cup.
Leading 13-7, Treviso were two minutes away from becoming the first Italian side to beat the Tigers in 18 attempts when the referee, Alain Rolland, lost patience with the home side's increasingly desperate defending in the face of a series of scrums and awarded a penalty try. George Ford kept his nerve to land the conversion and, with it, a victory that took the Tigers above Toulouse, who were beaten 17-6 at Ospreys.
Six days after securing a bonus-point win against the same opposition at Welford Road, the Tigers looked to be on their way out of Europe against a brave Treviso side, whose cause was undermined when Christians Loamanu was shown a yellow card for a cynical tackle with 14 minutes remaining.
Pool Two now looks like a three-way fight, with Ospreys beating Toulouse in the other fixture. The Tigers' final group game against the French side is likely to decide their cup destiny.
For Treviso, progression from the group has never really been a realistic goal, but there was much pride to play for having performed so well in the reverse fixture, only to come away with nothing.
Once again they deserved better than a pat on the back after a heroic effort.
Alberto Di Bernardo kicked two penalties and converted the penalty try that Treviso forced.
The torrential rain that fell all week long in northern Italy dictated that this one was always going to be a tight affair.
Leicester, however, made light of the difficult conditions and with only 14 minutes played had scored one the best tries likely to be seen anywhere this season.
Adam Thompstone was the eventual beneficiary after a wonderful flowing attack started by Ben Youngs 10 metres from his own line cut the Treviso rearguard to ribbons. Ford angled home the conversion and for a spell it looked as if Treviso were about to go into meltdown.
Prop forward Michele Rizzo was shown the yellow card for stamping, and the home defence looked all over the place as Leicester went for the kill. However, some poor decision making ensured that Treviso saw out the remaining 10 minutes of the first half without suffering any further damage.
Once restored to full strength, the home side hit back courtesy of a penalty try awarded after the Tigers had sacked a maul 12 metres from the line.
Di Bernardo converted and then added a penalty, while at the other end Ford was wide from a central position as the half ended with Leicester trailing 10-7.
Treviso continued where they had left off before the interval, with Di Bernardo despatching another penalty to extend their advantage.
The Tigers turned down a number of shots at goal as they went in search of another try, but the two-time champions laboured to break down the home defence, despite being camped in the Treviso half for long periods.
It seemed, however, as though the pendulum would once again swing when Christian Loamanu was sent to the sin-bin midway through the half.
The Tigers took the opportunity to go for the throat and, with virtually the last throw of the dice, forced a penalty try after Treviso collapsed a series of scrums on their own line. Ford converted, and Tigers lived to fight another day.
Benetton Treviso L McLean (K Burton, 51); L Nitoglia, C Loamanu, A Sgarbi, T Iannone; A di Bernardo (F Sbaraglini, 78), E Gori (F Semenzato, h-t); M Rizzo (I Fernandez-Rouyet, 73), L Ghiraldini (M Muccignat, 78), L Cittadini, F Minto, C van Zyl (V Bernabo, 78), A Zanni, D Budd (P Derbyshire, 55), M Vosawai (S Favaro, 55).
Leicester Tigers M Tait; N Morris, M Tuilagi, A Allen, W Thompstone (G Murphy, 46); G Ford, B Youngs; M Ayerza (L Mulipola, 59), T Youngs, D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, 59), L Deacon, G Parling, B Deacon, J Salvi, T Waldrom (J Crane, 23).
Referee A Rolland (Ireland).
Con: Di Bernardo
Pens: Di Bernardo 2
Tries: Thompstone, penalty
Cons: Ford 2Reuse content