Toulouse slumped to their first defeat in the European Champions Cup this season as Bath won 35-18 at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday.
The result, combined with Glasgow’s win over Montpellier earlier in the day, throws Pool 4 wide open with all three teams now in contention to top the group.
Bath led 25-15 at the interval having outscored their hosts three tries to two in an enthralling first 40 minutes, highlighted by the visitors’ high-speed counter-attacking.
For all the Bath back’s brilliance it was arguably their scrum that ultimately earned this crucial victory as a handful of penalties won on their own tryline killed off Toulouse’s hopes of a recovery.
Toulouse had a number of chances to wrestle he game back the second half and will be frustrated with referee George Clancy for not producing a yellow card on a few occasions.
But the bonus-point win for the visitors was well-deserved, with three of their four tries out of the top drawer, with Jonathan Joseph, in particular, quite outstanding.
Bath got off to the perfect start with an early try as Matt Banahan latched onto Francois Louw’s brilliant long pass out wide to cross the whitewash. George Ford added the conversion to go with an earlier penalty and at 10-0, Bath were looking good.
Toulouse replied with a try from a textbook maul, with Yoann Maestri crashing over. Toby Flood added the extras to cut the gap to three points.
Bath got their second try completely against the run of play as scrum-half Chris Cook intercepted opposite number Jean-Marc Doussain’s pass and sprinted 80m to score untouched.
Bath were in attacking mood and their third try was magnificent. It started with great break from Kyle Eastmond from deep inside his own half. He found Banahan, who got the offload away despite the attention of two tacklers to leave Joseph to cruise over. Ford landed the conversion and Bath were flying.
The visitors were denied a third try from deep inside their own half when Anthony Watson was adjudged to have be held up over the line after yet another scintillating counter attack, thanks to an incredible defensive effort from Vincent Clerc. But they did come away with points as Ford slotted a penalty from the ensuing scrum.
At 25-7 Toulouse looked in deep trouble but Yoann Huget produced a great try, going straight past Horacio Agulla with an impressive turn of speed.
Flood missed the conversion but was on target with a penalty just before the break as Bath once again cynically pulled down a maul.
Yet another collapsed maul allowed Flood to cut the gap to eight points early in the second half.
A wonderful tackle from Ford denied Yannick Nyanga a try as he rolled the big flanker onto his back over the line and the Bath scrum ensured the danger was averted with a big shove at the ensuing scrum.
Louis Picamoles butchered a sure try when he chose to kick rather than pass after intercepting and sprinting 60m. And Bath were lucky not to give away a penalty as they shut the attack down with Joseph hanging on for dear life as Toulouse tried to recycle.
Toulouse’s frustration increased ten minutes from time when Banahan clotheslined Doussain to leave the scrum-half in a heap on the ground. Clancy had no hesitation in giving a penalty, but again kept a card in his pocket.
The visitors would secure victory with another gem of a try as Joseph slalomed through the defence before feeding Ross Batty. The replacement hooker found Louw, who finished.
Ford landed a late penalty – from the scrum again – to rub salt into the Toulouse wounds.
Toulouse still lead the pool but must travel to Montpellier next week while Bath host Glasgow, with a win likely to be enough for at least a second-place spot.
Tries: Maestri, Huget
Pens: Flood 2
Tries: Banahan, Cook, Joseph, Louw
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 3
Toulouse: 15 Maxime M