Northampton fought back to lay down a marker with a powerful 21-13 win over Bath at The Recreation Ground.%u200B
In a battle between the top two, Saints maintained their unbeaten run over Bath, which now stretches back to four years in the Premiership.
And after trailing 10-0 midway through the first half, they scored two quick tries to turn the game around, before Stephen Myler kept the scoreboard ticking over with three second-half penalties.
The win puts Saints nine points clear at the top of the table with a home semi-final looking inevitable.
Second-placed Bath came off second best at Franklin's Gardens when the two sides met in September, but they dominated the scrum exchanges early at the Rec.
That followed a stunning start where Bath scored the first try within a minute. After Kyle Eastmond's initial break, Semesa Rokoduguni looked to be in on the right. Jamie Elliott got back for a desperate cover tackle, but Bath had a huge overlap. When the ball came back to the left Olly Woodburn couldn't control at first, but he had so much time, he was able to go back and collect the ball before strolling over.
Tom Homer converted, and added a penalty after the Bath scrum got the upper hand on their Saints counterparts.
Having trailed by ten points, Northampton then hit back with tries from James Wilson and Mike Haywood to lead 12-10 at the break.
The first came after a loose clearing kick to Elliott allowed the Saints winger to counter attack and cause havoc in the Bath defence.
The ball then came back, and despite flirting with the touchline, Wilson went over in the corner.
Stephen Myler was off-target with the conversion, but made no mistake four minutes before the break when Haywood crossed. Having made ground on the left, Northampton came back right, and with Bath drifting quickly, Haywood showed quick feet to step inside the cover defence and dive over.
Saints started the second half well, and were able to add an easy three points when Rokoduguni threw a ball away to prevent a quick lineout, Myler slotting the penalty.
And they moved more than a score clear five minutes later when Woodburn deliberately knocked on in kickable territory.
That should have been quickly cancelled out as Phil Dowson committed the same offence at the other end two minutes later, but Homer was miles off with his attempt.
He made up for that almost immediately, after a break from Mickey Young led to Saints failing to roll away in their own 22, Homer converting the resulting penalty.
Another penalty from Myler allowed Saints to stretch their lead once more, but they gave Bath a way back into the game when George Pisi was sin-binned eight minutes from time for taking out Rokoduguni in the air.
Homer couldn't convert the penalty, but Bath were on the front foot and camped in Saints territory as they tried to find a way through.
The Northampton defence held though, with Nick Auterac knocking on into touch as one chance went begging.
Pens: Homer 2
Tries: Wilson, Haywood
Pens: Myler 3
Yellow Card: G Pisi
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Sam Burgess, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Ollie Devoto, 9 Micky Young, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Alafoti Faosiliva, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Luke Arscott
Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Gareth Denman, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Teimana Harrison, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Ahsee Tuala
Venue: Recreation Ground
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Keith Lewis