Exeter Chiefs 13 Gloucester 14
Gloucester proved lightning does not strike twice as Gareth Steenson missed a last minute conversion to deny Exeter Chiefs a one-point victory at the death.
The Cherry and Whites led 14-8 following Charlie Sharples’ try on 46 minutes but the hosts set-up an agonising finale as they hammered away to the bitter end.
With both Sila Puafisi and Sione Kalamafoni in the sin-bin, the odds were stacked against Gloucester but they defended heroically.
Don Armand eventually rumbled over, two minutes in to injury-time, and it looked as though the Cherry and Whites would suffer a second successive last-gasp defeat at Sandy Park.
But Steenson, who booted the killer blow last season, fluffed his lines as Gloucester hung on for the win.
Billy Twelvetrees returned from a knee infection to captain Gloucester at Sandy Park.
He was joined in the starting line-up by fellow England stars Ben Morgan and Jonny May and all three produced impressive performances.
Elsewhere Jimmy Cowan and Will James came in for injured duo Dan Robson and James Hudson, while Lua Lokotui returned to the bench, having recovered from the pectoral injury he suffered in November.
The Devon outfit were brought back down to earth following their LV=Cup triumph with a heavy defeat against Leicester Tigers and they have won just one of their last seven Premiership encounters.
They had triumphed on the last two occasions the south west rivals have met following up their last minute 40-39 victory over the Cherry and Whites on the final day of last season with another success at Kingsholm in October.
But Gloucester gained revenge to leap-frog their West Country rivals in the Aviva Premiership table and close the gap on London Wasps in seventh to three-points.
It looked as though Exeter’s cup hangover would continue as they failed to claim the kick-off and some poor passing saw the ball flung into touch.
Their nightmare start handed Gloucester an early attacking lineout and following a succession of phases Ryan Mills threw a long pass and Rob Cook dummied his way over after just one minute, 34 seconds.
But to the Cherry and Whites dismay, referee Matt Carley went upstairs and a knock on was spotted at the breakdown.
The Chiefs fought back but the errors continued until Henry Slade was handed a simple penalty in front of the posts and duly converted.
Gloucester levelled the scores after their scrum steamrolled the hosts. The Cherry and White set-piece has come under fire throughout the season, and they were given a lesson by the same opposition in October. But with a full contingent of props available and the addition of World Cup winner Trevor Woodman to the coaching staff, it is clear progress is being made.
Gloucester almost caught Exeter napping with a quick throw from Cook to Elliott Stooke but the second-row’s pass to Ben Morgan was blocked.
Cook re gathered the ball and raced to the left but was unable to release the overlap as a bizarre period of play ensued which ended in Jonny May being tackled into touch in the corner.
A second solid scrum saw Gloucester awarded another kickable penalty on 33 minutes and Cook booted the visitors into the lead.
But their slender advantage lasted just a matter of minutes as Exeter spread the ball wide and released Matt Jess, with a dubious last pass, to crash over in the corner.
Slade failed to add the extras but the try handed the hosts a slender two point lead at the break.
Gloucester continued to enjoy the upper hand at the set-piece following the restart and a pair of quick-fire penalties allowed Cook to nudge his side in front.
They were dealt a blow when Ryan Mills hobbled off with a leg injury, to be replaced by out of form Freddie Burns.
But with virtually his first touch Burns released Mike Tindall and the former England star fixed Ian Whitten before popping a short ball to Cook, who beat the Irish centre.
He raced towards the whitewash before passing to Sharples, who danced around Luke Arscott for the crucial try.
Cook missed the conversion and was off target again with a penalty shortly before the hour mark.
Sandy Park then witnessed the good and bad of Burns. First, his missed tackle almost let Exeter in before some heroic scramble and try-line defence. Then a mesmerising break released Twelvetrees, but he uncharacteristically lost the ball in the tackle.
Gloucester were left to rue their failure to convert opportunities as Exeter fought back in the final quarter. They held onto the ball and recycled with improved speed and efficiency to put the Cherry and Whites on the rails.
They were dealt a major blow when Sila Puafisi was sent to the sin-bin for a late shoulder charge in the 77th minute and Exeter kicked to the corner.
The hosts rumbled towards the try-line but Gloucester kept them at bay only to see Sione Kalamafoni harshly shown yellow for collapsing the maul.
Thirteen man Gloucester continued to defend for their lives but Armand eventually powered over the whitewash.
It looked as though Steenson would once again break Gloucester’s hearts but to the delight of the travelling Cherry and White army, his conversion was blown agonisingly wide of the uprights as the visitors escaped with four-points.
Exeter: Luke Arscott (Sam Hill 53); Matt Jess, Ian Whitten, Phil Dollman, Tom James; Henry Slade(Gareth Steenson 60), Dave Lewis; Ben Moon (Carl Rimmer 64), Jack Yeandle (Luke Cowan-Dickie), Hoani Tui (Alex Brown 56); Dean Mumm (Capt.), Damian Welch; Dave Ewers, Tom Johnson, Kai Horstmann (Don Armand 56).
Tries – M Jess, D Armand; Pen – H Slade.
Gloucester Rugby: Rob Cook; Charlie Sharples, Mike Tindall (Henry Trinder 59), Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Jonny May; Ryan Mills (Freddie Burns), Jimmy Cowan (Tavis Knoyle 65); Nick Wood (Yann Thomas 65), Darren Dawidiuk (Koree Britton 37), Shaun Knight (Sila Puafisi 55), Elliott Stooke, Will James (Lua Lokotui 59), Sione Kalamafoni, Matt Kvesic, Ben Morgan (Gareth Evans 59).
Try – C Sharples; Pens – R Cook (3)
Yellow cards: S Puafisi (77), S Kalamafoni (80)
Referee: M Carley
Attendance: 10, 171