Northampton kept their European Champions Cup campaign alive with a hard-fought 20-9 win over Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
The result means that Northampton and Racing-Metro – who crushed Treviso – are now level on points at the top of Pool 5 ahead of next weekend’s final pool game showdown at Franklin’s Gardens.
First-half tries from Calum Clark and George North saw Saints lead 17-9 at the interval.
Stephen Myler added a penalty on either side of half time while Dan Biggar kicked all of the home team’s points via three penalties.
The Saints headed into the game knowing that a win would represent a giant step towards the knock-out stage, while the hosts had only pride to play for.
But Ospreys made a bright start. Justin Tipuric went close to scoring a try, and on the next play Biggar converted a simple penalty opportunity.
But the Saints hit back when Clark’s charge-down and try was given the green light by the TMO.
Myler added the conversion to make it 3-7, but Biggar struck a second penalty to cut the gap down to a single point.
The teams exchanged further penalties in the minutes that followed before Northampton struck a hammer blow on the stroke of half-time.
Wales winger North snapped up a loose ball and raced 50 metres to score and leave Myler with a simple conversion.
At 9-17, Ospreys re-emerged for the second half knowing that they’d need to score twice and prevent Northampton from adding to their tally to stand a chance of getting anything from the game.
But opportunities for points were much more difficult to come by in the second period.
A penalty goal from Myler 12 minutes from time edged Northampton further in front, and there wasn’t enough time on the clock for Ospreys to mount any sort of comeback.
The controlled performance and victory for Northampton sets up a battle for first place in Pool 5 with Racing Metro, which brings with it home advantage in the last eight.
Pens: Biggar 3
Tries: Clark, North
Pens: Myler 2
Yellow cards: G.Pisi
Ospreys: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Aisea Natoga, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones (c), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Morgan Allen, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Sam Dickinson, 3 Gareth Denman, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Alex Corbisiero, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Patrick Pechambert (France); Jonathan Gasnier (France)