London Irish gave their Heineken Cup hopes a massive shot in the arm via a famous 24-16 victory over Perpignan at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday, with a late penalty from Peter Hewat denying the French giants the consolation of a losing bonus-point.
The French side paid the price for their indiscipline, conceding two tries after having players sin-binned as London Irish kept up their 100 per cent record in the competition this season.
But the spectators were not treated to the attacking rugby which had seen Irish take a maximum 10 points from their opening two matches as Perpignan collected nine. Instead a heavy pitch and Perpignan's bruising pack ensured this was a real scrap.
The opening Irish try came in the 21st minute when their pack drove lock Bob Casey over from a line-out after Perpignan's early replacement back row forward Gerrie Britz was the first of four players sent to the sin-bin following an offence at a ruck.
The French side were further depleted at the time with flanker Viliami Vaki receiving treatment in the other half of the pitch.
In the second half the home side restored their lead with the visitors again depleted after lock Rimas Alvarez Kairelis was yellow-carded for offside.
He was quickly followed by substitute prop Nicolas Mas for his part in illegally pulling down an Irish drive, as the home side were awarded a 60th-minute penalty try which full-back Peter Hewat, who had already kicked two penalties, converted for an 18-16 lead.
In between those scores an unconventional, but highly effective, piece of skill from Perpignan's left-wing Adrien Plante had temporarily turned the game his team's way.
Seven minutes into the second half replacement half-back Cédric Rosalen floated a big crossfield kick in the direction of the unmarked Plante who deftly volleyed the ball over the line before diving on it for his side's only try.
Full-back Jérôme Porical, who had landed three penalties in the first half, converted and Perpignan, leading 16-8, looked set to hand Irish their first European defeat of the campaign until their poor discipline came back to haunt them.
Things went from bad to worse for the French team with Hewat kicking two more late penalties to take his personal contribution to 14 points.
The second, which was the last kick of the game deep into injury time, deprived Perpignan of even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
One Irish player also spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin as Scottish referee Malcolm Changleng, who brandished four yellow cards altogether, punished David Paice for needlessly pushed Alvarez Kairelis following one of far too many infringements.
The Exlies' victory was far from pretty but it puts them firmly in control of their qualifying group.
For London Irish:
Tries: Casey, Penalty Try
Pens: Hewat 4
Pens: Porical 3
London Irish: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Tomas De Vedia, 13 Delon Armitage, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Mike Catt, 9 Peter Richards, 8 Juan Leguizamon, 7 Declan Danaher, 6 Kieran Roche, 5 Bob Casey (c), 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Richard Skuse, 2 David Paice, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Tonga Lea'aetoa, 17 Danie Coetzee, 18 James Hudson, 19 Phil Murphy, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi.
Perpignan: 15 Jérôme Porical, 14 Christophe Manas, 13 David Marty, 12 Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, 11 Adrien Plante, 10 Gavin Hume, 9 Nicolas Durand, 8 Henry Tuilagi, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Viliami Vaki, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, 3 Sebastian Bozzi, 2 Marius Tincu, 1 Perry Freshwater (c).
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Kisi Pulu, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Olivier Olibeau, 20 David Mele, 21 Cédric Rosalen, 22 Gerrie Britz.
Referee: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)
Touch judges: Rob Dickson (Scotland), Jim Yuille (Scotland)