19 points from fly-half George Ford saw third-placed Bath draw with Northampton Saints 19-19 in a tight clash at the Rec on Friday that reflected the parity of the two teams.
A bonus-point victory would have sealed a top-four place for Bath, but a resilient Northampton defence meant that the hosts will have to wait an extra week to find out if they will be partaking in the play-offs.
In an evenly-contested first half, neither side wanted to give anything away to their opponents and after exchanging two penalties each, George Ford for the hosts and Stephen Myler for the visitors, the teams went in level at half time.
Bath started the second half well and went over through Ford before Jamie Elliott responded with a try of his own for the visitors. As they did in the first half, Ford and Myler traded two penalties each, with Northampton snatching the draw in the last minute.
Myler gave the visitors an early lead after Bath conceded a penalty at the scrum and the Saints had the better of the play for the first 20 minutes but failed to capitalise beyond their initial three-pointer and were punished when Ford kicked a penalty of his own from out wide after half an hour to level the scores.
Northampton were not level for long though as Bath were penalised for holding on and from a similar position to his missed kick two minutes earlier, Myler restored their lead. Bath turned the pressure up for the final few minutes of the first half and were rewarded with another penalty which Ford duly converted to send the sides in level at half time.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks in the second half and had a chance to take the lead for the first time in the match with a penalty, but Ford's kick fell wide. He made up for his miss soon after though with a try after some good work from Leroy Houston. The fly-half kicked the simple conversion to give the hosts a 13-6 lead.
Despite Bath's best efforts, they could not stop Saints going over after 50 minutes when Myler found Elliott who went over out wide, with Myler adding the extras. Northampton had momentum on their side but after conceding a penalty at the scrum they again found themselves trailing by three and to make matters worse they lost Courtney Lawes for ten minutes for tackling Anthony Watson off the ball, but the Saints did level the scores again when Myler took advantage of Bath being penalised at the scrum.
Ford had the chance to give Bath the lead with four minutes remaining on the clock but his drop-goal attempt was a poor one and the scores remained level. He did get a second chance to win the game though, after the referee pinged Northampton for offside, and as he had been throughout most of the game, Ford was successful with the kick.
Bath looked to have sealed the win, but when Anthony Perenise was sent to the sin bin, Myler had a straightforward attempt to equalise once again. The fly-half was successful with his kick, but more drama followed as the TMO was called into action soon after when Lawes collided with Ford off the ball, but the decision was rightly made that the forward had tried to pull out of the tackle, and the points were shared.
Pens: Ford 3
Yellow card: Perenise
Pens: Myler 3
Yellow card: Lawes
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Micky Young, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Horacio Agulla
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 James Craig, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Alex Day, 22 James Wilson, 23 Tom Collins
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Roger Baileff
TMO: Graham Hughes / Greg Garner