A home try just 90 seconds in was far from the ideal start, but Saints responded well and scored brilliant first half tries of their own through James Wilson and Mike Haywood - Stephen Myler kicking the remaining points as the visitors produced a professional second half display to see out the game.
Although Tom Homer would take plaudits for a good pass and Woodburn the finish, Bath owed their opening score to Kyle Eastmond. Although the hosts were looking to vary their game, Saints were containing what was being thrown at them. That was until the centre handed off Stephen Myler to work himself into space.
With a two-on-one and Semesa Rokoduguni cruising on the outside the try looked certain, only for Jamie Elliott to have other ideas, pulling the England winger down and onto his back just shy of the line.
This gave Saints’ defenders the chance to get back, but all it did was buy some time, and Homer got the ball out of a double-tackle to the unmarked Woodburn on the left wing.
Homer nailed the conversion, but hit the post with a subsequent penalty as Bath looked to turn the screw from long range.
If Saints were rocked it didn’t show, and they had some dangerous moments in the opening exchanges, Samu Manoa and Ken Pisi both having promising runs. There was a win against the Bath throw, too, and Pisi shrugging off a double tackle from Eastmond and Sam Burgess to spark an attack in which the visitors retained possession well in working their way up to midway inside the home 22.
But Elliott, who had shrugged off a tackle earlier in the play, became isolated and conceded a penalty in a ferocious counter-ruck.
Bath cleared, but their early kicking game was off, with Ollie Devoto’s high balls too long and the chase pedestrian. This gave Saints the chances to counter, and when Mike Haywood won a smart turnover on the home 22 the visitors found themselves with a cracking position.
But the hosts hassled at the scrum - seemingly illegally, with Francois Louw breaking away early and Micky Young tackling Sam Dickinson before he’d picked up - and when they won the ball back at a breakdown Rokoduguni did not get spotted holding onto the ball after being felled by Elliott.
Still, Saints were not in the mood for complaining, and the action remained frantic, even if neither side was creating try scoring opportunities.
Instead those chances fell to the goal kickers, and in this instance Homer was winning, landing a penalty after 24 minutes to Myler’s miss two minutes later.
However Saints kept on coming, and Elliott’s break through the middle was only outdone by Tom Stephenson’s play on the wide left. His step and dummy fooled Eastmond, and the pass to James Wilson was sublime. So was the finish, and while TMO Keith Lewis had a good look at it the score was given.
Having done the hard work in getting back into the contest Saints then nearly shot themselves in the foot, Lee Dickson having a box kick charged down. Bath went through the hands, Woodburn stepped out of a tackle, and a second try looked certain.
That was until Stephenson pulled him down, Woodburn held on and Myler sent play to halfway. The maul was good, but Bath defended superbly to drive it out and win the lineout.
This brought cheers, but they were silenced by Rob Webber’s overthrow. Calum Clark pounced, and Saints put the ball through the hands. Wilson offloaded superbly, George Pisi bounced away a couple of attempted tackles, and with the supporting runners attacking with power and pace the space opened up for Mike Haywood to step inside the drift to score.
Myler landed the conversion, and while Bath did have the last chance of the half it was only a long-range Homer penalty from the far touchline, and Saints went into the break with a hard-earned two-point lead.
Two became five seven minutes after the re-start as Myler landed his first penalty. It came from a good attack, Saints using a driving maul to suck in defenders before sending the ball through the backline. Wilson threaded through a lovely kick that sat up just before the goal line. Rokoduguni swept it up to concede a lineout, but threw the ball away into the crowd, and instead of the throw Myler had the shot at goal from the 15-metre line, which he duly converted.
Another three-pointer came five minutes after that, and with Homer seeing his first shot of the half drop short and wide two minutes after that.
Eight points behind Bath needed a spark, and they got it from Young just before the end of the third quarter. The scrum-half looked to have been snagged at a lineout 10 metres inside his own half, but he scampered clear to find Rokoduguni on his outside.
Saints were scrambling, and the unmarked Woodburn was screaming for it on the left wing. But the cross-field kick did not come, and while the big boys won a penalty for Homer to kick in front of the sticks it was not what the hosts needed.
They didn’t need Eastmond’s quick throw in to Woodburn that went both short and forward either, and it wasn’t taken from the correct place anyway. This gave Saints a scrum, and, thanks to a Bath infringement, another three points from Myler’s right boot.
This took Saints two scores clear, a handy margin given George Pisi’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle on the airborne Rokoduguni. Homer went for goal, but again it held up in the wind, and when Bath were awarded another penalty a couple of phases later it was no surprise to see them go for the touchline.
But Saints’ defence held on the goal line to force a fumble from Nick Auterac, and after a brave long lineout thrown over the top went to plan and killed some time, Homer fumbled the ball with Rokoduguni outside him.
The full back was then turned over after a great chase from man of the match Elliott and Saints wound down the clock expertly to go nine points clear of their hosts at the top of the Aviva Premiership.
BATH Homer; Rokoduguni, Burgess, Eastmond, Woodburn; Devoto, Cook; James, Webber, Thomas, Hooper (capt), Day, Garvey, Louw, Fearns
Reps - Batty, Auterac, Palma-Newport, Faosiliva, Houston, Stringer, Jennings, Arscott
SAINTS Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, Elliott; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Denman, Craig, Day, Manoa, Clark, Dickinson
Reps - Williams, Corbisiero, Mercey, Harrison, Dowson, Fotuali’i, Olver, Tuala
AVIVA MAN OF THE MATCH Jamie Elliott
REFEREE Greg Garner
1mins BATH Try Woodburn Con Homer 7-0
6mins BATH Miss pen Homer
24mins BATH Pen Homer 10-0
26mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler
27mins SAINTS Try Wilson 10-5
34mins SAINTS Try Haywood Con Myler 10-12
39mins BATH Miss pen Homer
HALF-TIME BATH 10 SAINTS 12
47mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-15
52mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-18
55mins BATH Miss pen Homer
58mins BATH Pen Homer 13-18
70mins SAINTS Pen Myler 13-21
71mins SAINTS Yellow card G Pisi
72mins BATH Miss pen Homer
FULL-TIME BATH 13 SAINTS 21