The Saints will need results elsewhere to go their way and a victory over Scarlets next weekend if they are to progress in the Anglo-Welsh Cup after a frustrating defeat at Welford Road.
Despite matching their hosts with three tries on the afternoon, a half-time deficit of nine points and some crucial missed chances proved costly and leaves the Saints needing help from - ironically - Tigers and possibly Gloucester also in Round 4.
The opening 15 minutes were played out between the two 22 metre lines, Tigers only once breaking into the red zone where Ethan Waller did well to wrap up the ball for a penalty. The hosts maintained their stranglehold on possession and - despite thrice being held up on the right by some desperate defence - Will Evans finally powered over.
The Saints wouldn’t have to wait anywhere near as long to make the most of their first visit upfield, Ken Pisi flying onto a high ball brilliantly and keeping the ball alive through Nafi Tuitavake for Harry Mallinder to weave his way into the corner just a few minutes later.
Tigers were not to be shellshocked, though, and with turnover ball presenting them another platform inside the visiting 22, Pisi’s mammoth hit on Jack Roberts ended in a yellow card for the Saintsman as the sheer momentum took the tackle beyond the horizontal.
Owen Williams flicked over the points but again Saints hit back quickly, this time Sam Olver dusting himself off after a late hit to guide a penalty over from just inside enemy territory.
Still a man up though, Leicester’s next move was a substantial one, turnover ball allowing Roberts and Kitto to sweep up field and send Dom Barrow crashing through for the hosts’ second try. Williams’ conversion opened up a first two score gap of the game, but Michele Rizzo’s yellow card for a blindside shoulder charge on Sam Dickinson meant the Saints started the second 40 a man up.
The only chance of points in that sin bin period would fall to Williams, however, his missed penalty and a promising burst upfield from Pisi the only highlights as the game restarted amidst heavy drizzle.
Upon returning to a full contingent, Tigers took a grip back on possession and when George McGuigan made a powerful break into the 22, it was only a matter of time before Harry Thacker smuggled it over the line, the score converted by Williams after a trip to the TMO.
The Saints needed something quickly and while two successive visits to the home 22 ended with loose lineouts, third time they got it right. Quick ball gave the backs some space to play and after Alex Waller's powerful drive up the middle, it quickly went wide where Nafi Tuitavake cut the grain and finished strongly.
Hope was briefly restored, Williams stretched the gap with his second penalty of the afternoon and when touch was missed with Saints attempting to go for the corner, hopes of a win were gone.
There was still time for a third score to level up the try count and crucially grab a losing bonus point, however, Rory Hutchinson sliding into the corner with the final play.
20mins TIGERS Try Evans Con William 7-0
23mins SAINTS Try Mallinder 7-5
27mins SAINTS Yellow Pisi
28mins TIGERS Pen Williams 10-7
32mins SAINTS Pen Olver 10-8
34mins TIGERS Try Barrow Con Williams 17-8
40mins TIGERS Yellow Rizzo
HALF-TIME TIGERS 17-8 SAINTS
35mins TIGERS Miss pen Williams
55mins TIGERS Try Thacker Con Williams 24-8
68mins SAINTS Try Tuitavake Con Olver 24-15
75mins TIGERS Pen Williams 27-15
80mins SAINTS Try Hutchinson 27-20
FULL-TIME TIGERS 27-20 SAINTS
Tait (capt); Brady, Roberts, Smith, Catchpole; Williams, Kitto; Rizzo, Thacker, Balmain, Wells, Barrow, Croft, Evans, Hamilton
McGuigan, Brugnara, Betts, Maksymiw, Owen, White, Worth, Thacker
Tuala; K Pisi, Tuitavake, Mallinder, Estelles; Olver, Kessell; E Waller, Clare, Brookes, Ribbans, Day (capt), Gibson, Nutley, Dickinson
Fish, A Waller, Hill, Paterson, Ludlam, Dickson, Hutchinson, Wilson
Dan Jones (WRU)