The Saints found out just how tough a hunting ground Kingston Park has become, going the same way as Bath, Quins and Tigers before them in defeat to Newcastle.
Despite outscoring their hosts by three tries to two, a rousing second half comeback fell a solitary point short - Andy Goode proving to be the thorn in Saints’ side with 16 points from the tee.
That haul helped the Falcons to a 20-11 half-time lead and while Lee Dickson added a brace of close range scores to Jamie Gibson’s first half effort, it wasn’t enough and the 2015/16 rollercoaster ride resumed.
A confident Falcons side needed no encouragement, but that’s exactly what they got when Saints spilt the kick off. A few phases later it was Marcus Watson who cut loose on the 22 and surged behind the sticks and while the TMO would curtail the home crowd’s delight, their wait for points only lasted a matter of minutes.
Scott Lawson rumbled within metres, where the grey line was finally breached by Alex Tait, the wing on the end of a long, floated pass from Goode.
The veteran fly half also converted with a stiff breeze at his back, but having then dropped the restart themselves, Newcastle never comprehensively cleared their lines and Saints hit back.
It was a try as good as any in recent weeks, purely for it’s directness and accuracy. The centre pairing started the ball rolling on the left and with every powerful carry making ground, Gibson twice got his hands on the ball – the second time to wriggle through the Falcons cover.
Stephen Myler missed the tricky conversion, but succeeded with the simple task of twice putting his side ahead, sandwiching a Goode penalty with a pair of his own from easy range.
The second though ended a period in which the visitors appeared to be wrestling the upper hand away from Newcastle, whose ambition and depth with ball in hand returned to the fore.
Simon Hammersley advanced on the end of an overlap and with Saintsmen defending around the fringes, Chris Harris snuck right through the middle of a ruck for Falcons try number two.
Not only would Newcastle take that lead to the break – they’d extend it too, Goode stroking over his fifth kick from five on the afternoon and soon making it six when play resumed as Kieran Brookes failed to release on the deck.
Saints were finding themselves under increasing pressure at the breakdown and a good kick chase won a penalty for Goode to kick to touch. The following maul drew another offence out of the visitors and with the evergreen 10 again finding his range, all of a sudden the lead had become three scores.
That finally seemed to spark a reaction from the Saints and after a JJ Hanrahan’s well-judged kick struck the post pad, Newcastle scrambled for safety. From the back of the resulting five-metre scrum it was Lee Dickson who popped up with the score, scrabbling over for a captain’s try, converted by Hanrahan.
A patiently worked overlap was denied when Wood carried into a Falcons player receiving treatment but with a scrum penalty following, Saints went to the corner. The drive was illegally halted, but again Dickson was aware to double up among a mass of bodies.
Tensions had reached a peak and with both sides struggling to string together any phases, the key moment ultimately came. Hammersley almost did brilliantly under his own high ball, but when the full back knocked on, advantage was called back seconds before Foden plucked Mayhew’s fumble from the air.
The Saints’ 15 would have had the freedom of Kingston Park, but instead a flowing break that followed the subsequent scrum was stemmed and Newcastle held for four vital points.
7mins FALCONS Try Tait Con Goode 7-0
13mins SAINTS Try Gibson 7-5
18mins SAINTS Pen Myler 7-8
21mins FALCONS Pen Goode 10-8
26mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-11
29mins FALCONS Try Harris Con Goode 17-11
39mins FALCONS Pen Goode 20-11
HALF-TIME FALCONS 20 SAINTS 11
47mins FALCONS Pen Goode 23-11
50mins FALCONS Pen Goode 26-11
53mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Hanrahan 26-18
62mins SAINTS Miss DG Hanrahan
67mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Hanrahan 26-25
FALCONS Hammersley; Tait, Harris, Powell, Watson; Goode, Young; Vickers, Lawson, Vea, Botha, Robinson, Wilson, Welch (capt), Hogg
McGuigan, Rogers, Hatakeyama, Furno, Mayhew, Takulua, Willis, Socino
SAINTS Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Mallinder, Wilson; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Craig, Day, Gibson, Wood, Dickinson
Marshall, E Waller, Denman, Matfield, Harrison, Kessell, Hanrahan, G Pisi
REFEREE Wayne Barnes