Leinster moved back into second position in the RaboDirect Pro12 with a dominant 41-22 victory over winless Zebre.
Joe Schmidt's men had taken an early 17-3 lead through Tom Denton and Fergus McFadden touchdowns before the Italian team hit back via Sinoti Sinoti and Daniel Halangahu.
But the visitors controlled the second-half and further scores from Fionn Carr, Dominic Ryan and Isa Nacewa boosted their home semi-final chances.
Carlo Festuccia went over late on for the hosts but it was yet another disappointment in a difficult season for the newcomers.
With Ulster and Glasgow Warriors both winning at the weekend, the pressure was on the Dublin-based outfit to be victorious over the bottom placed Pro12 side.
And although Sexton and Halangahu traded early penalties, it was the Irish province who took command of the encounter.
Denton touched down after 10 minutes to take them 10-3 ahead before another try, this time from the winger McFadden, opened up an already substantial advantage. But to their credit Zebre, who have struggled throughout this campaign, battled back and were level at the break.
Firstly, the lightening quick Sinoti scampered over and then fly-half Halangahu crossed the whitewash.
The fly-half added conversions to both and the teams went in locked at 17-17. However, Leinster raised the intensity in the second period and quickly moved away from the hosts, securing the bonus-point in the process.
Sexton initially kicked them into the lead once again before Carr and Ryan tries took them ahead by 34-17 with a quarter of the game to go.
This time there was no coming back as Nacewa crossed the whitewash, although Festuccia secured a consolation score for the Italian outfit.
Tries: Sinoti, Halangahu, Festuccia
Cons: Halangahu 2
Tries: Denton, McFadden, Carr, Ryan, Nacewa
Cons: Sexton 5
Pens: Sexton 2
Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Giovanbattista Venditti, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Michael Van Vuren, 3 Luciano Leibson, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 David Odiete.
Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Andrew Goodman, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 John Cooney, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Andrew Conway.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)