Gloucester, the Premiership leaders, emerged victorious from a thumping, all-action West Country derby that was crammed with tries, trouble and a full house of cards. In doing so, the Cherry and Whites opened up a six-point lead over Sale, who play Saracens today.
There were villains galore here, not least the Bath captain, Alex Crockett, who ended up with a red card after picking up two yellows. But there were heroes too, in particular James Simpson-Daniel, who had a hand in Gloucester's first three tries, and the home fly-half, Carlos Spencer, who directed events with flair and cunning.
Bath suffered when they lost their scrum-half, Michael Claassens, after a blow to the head. After lengthy treatment he was replaced by Scott Bemand. However, Bath scored their first try a couple of minutes later, driving a penalty line-out – the hooker Rob Hawkins, making his first start for two years, was on the end of it. Butch James converted.
Gloucester hit back, winning a series of penalties and each time opting for the scrum because their loosehead, Nick Wood, appeared to be getting the better of Bath's tighthead, Duncan Bell.
The pressure eventually told and another Bath offside, which resulted in Crockett's first yellow card, presented Spencer with a simple goal. That was cancelled out, shortly after, by one from James.
There then followed four minutes of absolute mayhem as Gloucester scored three tries. Two were scored by Simpson-Daniel; the other was set up by the hyphenated hero. Simpson-Daniel's first owed everything to Spencer, who sent through a perfect grubber after shaping to sling out a long pass to his right. Simpson-Daniel raced through and grounded the ball before it went dead.
The winger crashed hard into the advertising hoardings and needed treatment. But two minutes later, Simpson-Daniel spurted through the narrowest of gaps and scorched upfield. As the defence homed in he found the winger Charlie Sharples free on the left with a long pass and Gloucester were ahead.
Bath lost some of their composure and Jonny Faamatuainu had a pass intercepted by Simpson-Daniel on the Gloucester 10-metre line. Simpson-Daniel sped away, but once he realised he had shaken off his pursuers he eased up, suffering from a pulled muscle. After touching down and watching Spencer kick the conversion, he limped out of the action.
As rattled as they were, Bath managed a great counterattack that eventually saw their mammoth winger Matt Banahan make a break, and Hawkins was on hand for a second try when the escapee was finally brought to a halt. James converted, but Gloucester had the last word of the half when Simpson-Daniel's replacement, Olly Barkley, kicked a simple penalty.
Anthony Allen's visit to the sin-bin at the start of the second half, for preventing release, saw Gloucester's lead cut once more as James kicked the goal. The end-to-end combat did not stop, though. First came another Spencer kick – Iain Balshaw gave chase and got tangled up with Banahan, but the scrum-half Rory Lawson followed up and dived on to the ball for the bonus-point try.
A tap penalty in Gloucester territory saw Bemand slip the ball outside to Andrew Higgins, who muscled over for a try in his 100th game for Bath. James converted.
A Barkley penalty restored Gloucester's six-point lead, and there then followed a flurry of cards, with Wood seeing yellow for a high tackle on Joe Maddock and Crockett the same for tacking Sharples off the ball. That became a red card, and Barkley added three more points to the Gloucester total to finish off a compelling match.
Gloucester: O Morgan; I Balshaw, J Simpson-Daniel (O Barkley, 39), A Allen, C Sharples; C Spencer, R Lawson; N Wood, O Azam, G Somerville, A Eustace, A Brown, A Satala, G Delve (capt), A Hazell (J Forster, 73).
Bath: J Maddock; A Higgins, A Crockett (capt), E Fuimaono-Sapolu (S Berne, 80), M Banahan; B James, M Claassens (S Bemand, 3); D Barnes, R Hawkins, D Bell, J Harrison, P Short, A Beattie, D Browne (J Faamatauinu, 34-40), J Scaysbrook.
Referee: W Barnes (London).