Leicester Tigers' hopes of a berth in the Guinness Premierships play-offs are hanging by a thread after they suffered a shock 28-25 to Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday.
The hosts, who have lost their last seven games and the services of Mathew Tait and Toby Flood, but a difficult few days behind them by producing a sublime performance.
Newcastle were quickly into their stride from the kick-off, turning over Leicester ball in their 22 and kicking a first-minute penalty through Jonny Wilkinson when the visitors infringed.
Leicester were then pushed back from the restart and after a barnstorming run by John Rudd down the left, Falcons lock Andy Perry was held up on the line.
From the second phase however hooker Andy Long dived over for the try to which Wilkinson added the points to make it 10-0.
This time Leicester were quick to respond and, when Andy Goode struck a penalty to the corner, No 8 Jordan Crane was driven over from the line-out, with Goode converting from wide out.
Wilkinson kept the Newcastle scoreboard ticking over with a 15th-minute penalty following a ruck offence but his opposite number Goode was well wide with a similar effort soon after.
A dangerous tackle by Marco Wentzel on Tom May saw the Leicester lock yellow-carded but this time Wilkinson was off target with his penalty attempt.
When Goode burst clear from halfway to feed Alesana Tuilagi a Leicester score seemed certain until Mathew Tait hauled him down just short. Leicester retained possession however and moved it quickly to the left where Tom Varndell crashed over for an unconverted try.
With the interval approaching it was all Newcastle following a James Grindal break in midfield. Ross Beattie and then Geoff Parling were held up on the line but finally, from a five-metre scrum, Leicester were pushed back and Falcons No 8 Parling went through for the try, converted by Wilkinson to make it 20-12 at half-time.
Goode was off target with a simple penalty attempt just after the restart but made no mistake when Newcastle infringed again right in front of their posts.
Play was now swinging from end to end, and in the 53rd minute Newcastle ran in a third try from another superb break by Grindal. The fly-half beat two defenders at speed before releasing May who stormed in from 30 metres to give the Falcons a 10-points advantage.
Another Wilkinson penalty stretched that lead a little further but when Grindal was yellow-carded for preventing release, Sam Vesty the replacement Leicester fly-half pulled back the three points.
Vesty continued to be prominent and it was his next break from a scrum in the home 22 that produced a second try for Varndell under the posts, and Vesty then reduced the Leicester deficit to just three points with the conversion.
With time running out for Leicester they elected not to kick a penalty that could have squared the game and failed to secure a try from some concerted pressure on the Newcastle line in the dying seconds.
For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries: Long, Dawson, May
Cons: Wilkinson 3
Pens: Wilkinson 2
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Crane, Varndell 2
Cons: Goode, Vesty
Pens: Goode, Vesty
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Tom May, 13 Tom Dillon, 12 Tim Visser, 11 John Rudd, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 James Grindal, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Ben Woods, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Andy Buist, 4 Andy Perry, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Andy Long, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 David Wilson, 18 Ross Beattie, 19 Russell Winter, 20 Ed Williamson, 21 Hall Charlton, 22 Ollie Phillips.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Tom Croft, 6 Martin
Corry (c), 5 Ben Kay, 4 Marco Wentzel, 3 Julian White, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Martin Castrogiovanni.
Replacements: 16 Marcos Ayerza, 17 Mefin Davies, 18 Richard Blaze, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Christophe Laussucq, 21 Sam Vesty, 22 Ayoola Erinle.
Referee: Andrew Small
Touch judges: Don Helme, Mike Buck
Assessor: Colin High
Television match official: Trevor Parlett