Replacement prop Moray Low scored the winning try as Exeter extended their lead over Saracens at the top of the Aviva Premiership with an impressive 20-18 win at Allianz Park.
It ends a run of 19 successive league victories at Saracens’ north London home, as the hosts suffered a fourth straight defeat in all competitions for the first time since 2010.
The hosts began in impressive fashion with first-half tries from Alex Goode and Schalk Brits giving them a 15-6 advantage at the end of the first 40 minutes.
An Ian Whitten try brought Exeter back into the contest, a repeat of last year’s dramatic league semi-final, after the break before Low made his game-changing contribution after 73 minutes.
The Chiefs’ only previous win at this venue was 24-20, in May 2015.
Hosts Saracens were smarting after their surprise defeat to Gloucester last weekend and were quick to stamp their authority on the match, despite Gareth Steenson’s successful early penalty for the visitors.
Nathan Earle collected a box kick and appeared to have little room, but a superb exchange of off-loads with Goode saw the full-back charge clear eight minutes in for the opening try.
Exeter managed a brief foray forward in reply, with Thomas Waldrom leading the charge, but it was not long before things got worse for Rob Baxter’s reigning champions.
Nic White was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and the Australian was soon to regret his lack of discipline, as Mark McCall’s side got their second try on the board.
A driving maul from the relentless Saracens pack saw Brits crash over, but this was only confirmed after the input of TMO official David Sainsbury.
A second Steenson penalty reduced the deficit to single figures before the visitors almost crossed the whitewash for the first time. An excellent effort from Olly Woodburn was ruled out following a referral to the TMO, who decided that the ball had not been grounded after a great cover tackle by Earle and Goode in the corner.
The visitors needed to get more of an attacking foothold in the game in the second half and they duly delivered, with Whitten slicing through the Saracens defensive line with a superb arcing run.
Another successful kick from Steenson closed the gap to two points but the European champions gave themselves breathing space when Marcelo Bosch sent a penalty over from halfway.
However, the Chiefs ended the game camped in opposition territory and after a strong driving maul, a series of pick and goes led to Low going over the line underneath the posts.
The win stretches Exeter’s lead at the top of the Premiership table to five points over Saracens – who remain second.
What they said
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter: “Once we decided to fully commit to it, physically, mentally and tactically, things were getting a lot more comfortable for us, but it was still in the balance right until the end. I’ve got to give the players great credit for great character and the best thing for us is we’ve won a game of rugby away from home in the Premiership, which are very, very precious points.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: “It was a very tough game, two good teams, we were under a lot more pressure than they were under for large parts of the game and we put a huge amount in effort-wise. Exeter were controlling the ball, controlling where the game was played, their kicking game was good and we couldn’t really get out of our half in that last 20 minutes.”