Northampton survived a late Gloucester revival at Kingsholm yesterday to emerge with a 26-18 victory which eases their relegation fears slightly. Combined with Worcester's 18-10 loss to Bath, and London Irish's defeat at Leicester on Friday, it has been an extremely satisfying weekend for the Saints coach Budge Pountney.
However, for his opposite number, Dean Ryan, hopes of a place in the play-offs are disappearing fast. "Up until now, even though we haven't been playing like a top-three side, mathematically we were still up there," he said. "Now we are not even in the top three. We have to change things."
Northampton began the day in 11th place, just one point above the basement side Leeds, and it was left to the fly-half, Shane Drahm, to inspire their timely victory.
The centre pairing of Neil Starling and Marc Stcherbina both took advantage of poor Gloucester defence to touch down in the first half, Drahm converting both scores.
Two penalties from Henry Paul then pulled the home side back into contention, but Drahm carved out a 17-point lead with three second-half penalties, and although Marcel Garvey and Nathan Mauger provided some cheer for the Cherry and Whites with two late tries, Drahm added a final penalty to end any hopes of a comeback.
Bath's win over Worcester at the Rec was their first in four Premiership games, but the points were not secured until a drop goal and a penalty deep into injury-time from the fly-half Chris Malone.
And Bath might have seen victory slip away when forced to contest a five-metre scrum on their own line while they played for the final whistle.
With 18 players out through injury and international call-ups, the Bath coach John Connolly paid tribute to his team, saying: "The win really says a lot about team spirit here."