Newcastle scrambled into the semi-finals of the LV= Cup as two late tries saw off the challenge of Exeter at Kingston Park on Sunday.
Both sides made plenty of mistakes in a stop-start match played in miserable conditions, and much of the play was confined to midfield until the closing 10 minutes when tries from Alex Tait and Luke Eves swung the contest in the Falcons' favour.
Superb interplay between Jeremy Manning, Jimmy Gopperth and Luke Fielden nearly led to an early try but Fielden was hauled down five metres short. When the Newcastle pack drove over, referee Chris White decided the ball had been held up.
That was the best moment of a dour first half, with the only score of the opening 40 minutes going the visitors when Gareth Steenson kicked a penalty to give them a barely deserved 3-0 lead.
After the disappointment of the opening stanza, hopes of an improvement looked slim at the start of the second, with neither side capable of stamping their authority on proceedings.
With numerous stoppages for injuries and substitutions disrupting the flow, it took until the final 10 minutes of the contest for any kind of fluency to enter the play.
Exeter carved out a few chances to extend their lead with a series of drives but they could not find a way through some determined Falcons tackling.
With 70 minutes of the contest gone the Falcons finally got on the scoresheet, Gopperth kicking a penalty from the touchline to level the score at 3-3.
The score appeared to rejuvenate Newcastle and with four minutes remaining, Gcobani Bobo's sudden injection of pace had Exeter on the retreat. Two big drives later and the visitors' back line finally succumbed, with Tait surging through to cross for a try which Gopperth converted to make it 10-3.
The match was settled in the final minute, Newcastle breaking clear of the jaded visitors and Eves had an easy task to finished off a flowing 60-metre move to set the seal on the win.
Tries: Tait, Eves
Cons: Gopperth 2
Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 James Hudson, 3 James Hall, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Grant Shiells, 19 Glen Townson, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Hall Charlton, 22 Luke Eves, 23 Gcobani Bobo.
Exeter: 15 Paul McKenzie, 14 Nemani Nadolo, 13 Nic Sestaret, 12 Bryan Rennie, 11 Andrew Higgins, 10 Gareth Steenson (capt), 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 James Phillips, 7 Andy Miller, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Dave Gannon, 4 Chad Slade, 3 Chris Budgen, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Jon Vickers, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Ignacio Elosu, 19 Eoghan Grace, 20 Herbie Stupple, 21 Garrick Cowley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Josh Matavesi.
<Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Chris White (England)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), Alan Hughes (England)
Timekeeper: David Hudson (England)