The return to the Aviva Premiership ended in a frustrating defeat for Saints as last years runners up and Saints' newest local rivals, Wasps, took a full five points from the Gardens.
Northampton opened the game with a high energy, and end-to-end play saw them come close to a try in the game's opening minutes.
It was to be Wasps who opened the scoring, with an early penalty from fly-half Jimmy Gopperth but Saints soon levelled things, Piers Francis sending over a knock of his own.
Gopperth regained the Wasps lead with a second penalty kick moments later, but Saints made camp in Wasps' 22 and the pressure soon paid off.
After a trip to the TMO, Ahsee Tuala was awarded the first try of the afternoon, the full back getting over the whitewash after a winding run from Ben Foden.
Gopperth rescued Wasps lead, though, with a penalty and a hectic final two minutes followed. In an end to end blitz, a dazzling 50 metre effort by Tuala was halted by Gopperth, before Johnson nudged the ball forwards into Saints' 22, Christian Wade with the chase and score.
Francis added another three points to Saints' total before Saints were reduced to 14 as Foden took ten minutes in the sin bin for a deliberate knock on.
Wasps began the second half in a dominant fashion, and managed to wear the Saints down for their second try of the afternoon from Johnson.
Two Francis penalties got Saints right back into the game just afterwards, as Harrison and Burrell worked hard to regain the side's territory.
Wasps recovered quickly however, with Josh Bassett slid round Saints' defence with just over 15 minutes to play.
Jimmy Gopperth scored his fourth penalty to extend Wasps lead to 14 points but Saints were still dominant in attack and pushing towards the Wasps' line again.
But the Wasps' defence held firm and the away side got their bonus-point try just after, Juan de Jongh the one over the line, with Gopperth adding the extras.
An impressive 30-metre dash from Harry Mallinder gave Saints the final word on the game but last year's finalists had already done enough and took the five points.
8’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 0-3
11’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 3-3
14’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 3-6
18’ SAINTS Try Tuala 8-6
28’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 8-9
33’ WASPS Try Wade Conversion Wade 8-16
35’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 11-16
HALF TIME Saints 11-16 Wasps
43’ WASPS Try Johnson 11-21
55’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 14-21
58’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 17-21
61’ WASPS Try Bassett Conversion Gopperth 17-28
66’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 17-31
76’ WASPS Try de Jongh Conversion Gopperth 17-38
78’ SAINTS Try Mallinder 22-38
FULL TIME Saints 22-38 Wasps
SAINTS Tuala; Foden, Tuitavake, Burrell, Collins; Francis, Groom; Waller, Hartley (capt), Brookes, Lawes, Ratuniyarawa, Gibson, Wood, Harrison
Subs Haywood, van Wyk, Hill, Day, Paterson, Reinach, Mallinder, Pisi
WASPS Le Roux; Wade, Daly, de Jongh, Bassett; Gopperth, Robson; Mullan, Johnson, Cooper-Wooley, Launchbury (capt), Rowlands, Haskell, Young, Thompson
Subs Harris, McIntyre, Moore, Gaskell, Willis, Symons, Simpson, Miller