Phil Dowson and Martin Roberts scored the tries and while the Cherry and Whites crossed twice themselves, a flawless kicking performance from Stephen Myler and a Ryan Lamb three-pointer moments from time saw the Saints home.
It was a far from cagey opening, both sides keeping the ball in hand despite the slick conditions and it needed just 90 seconds of play before the first chance came for Gloucester. Unfortunately for them, Tim Taylor couldn't take advantage and it was much the same story minutes later when Charlie Sharples burst clear of the Saints backline.
Saints took the initiative and a series of bright moves resulted in a pair of penalties. After going to the corner with the first one, second time round Myler pointed to the posts and kicked the Saints' and his own first points for 2011/12 with a well struck penalty.
Just five minutes later the Cherry and Whites were level, Taylor this time presented with an unmissable opportunity but a superb move from the home side had them back in front in no time. Greig Tonks spotted a mismatch to carve through and Myler expertly drew in Gloucester defenders before flicking a cheeky offload to Dowson out of the back door.
The Saints skipper romped over but his converted effort was a short lived advantage - Tonks' attempted clearance from the restart was charged down by May and the centre caught up with the ball just in time to add to the brace of tries he scored at the Gardens last season.
The game continued at its frantic pace and while a pair of forays from the visitors were quelled by the Saints, the lead would be theirs for the first time thanks to Taylor's second penalty when a scrum went against the head.
Rather predictably the narrow gap was again short-lived and it was debutant Roberts who quite brilliantly did the damage for the Saints. Having moved his side within touching distance with a sniping run, the scrum-half burst off a set piece to dot down by the left hand upright, the TMO confirming his first Saints try.
The message in both dressing rooms at half-time would no doubt have been to tighten up in defence. Though Gloucester were keeping an enterprising Saints at bay, they were doing so by illegal means and a pair of Myler penalties - the second of which also saw Glos skipper Pete Buxton yellow carded - were no more than the home side deserved.
Big American Samu Manoa continued to impress after a rampaging first-half, almost teeing up Calum Clark after a pacey break but with the sin bin clock still kicking, Burns slotted one of two long range penalties to bring the difference back to a single score on the hour.
Somewhat predictably then, the scores were almost reset for the final ten minutes, Sharples benefitting from Vainikolo's burst to cross but the Saints stayed ahead by a hair after Burns' skewed conversion. Saints fans were on the edges of their seats, not helped by a Ryan Lamb penalty that dropped agonisingly short.
With five minutes left on the clock, Gloucester stole a lineout and went about building above that would end in a Burns drop goal for the slenderest of one-point leads. Cue Lamb, and another nicely clipped penalty that this time did have the distance and edged the Saints ahead once again.
The drama wasn't to end there, Gloucester winning a penalty in the dying seconds that took them into Saints territory, but when the play slowed down Mike Haywood snatched the ball off the ground and the final whistle sounded - Gloucester penalised for holding on.
AVIVA MAN OF THE MATCH Phil Dowson
REFEREE Andrew Small
2mins GLOS Miss pen Taylor
14mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-0
19mins GLOS Pen Taylor 3-3
21mins SAINTS Try Dowson 10-3
23mins GLOS Try May Con Taylor 10-10
30mins GLOS Pen Taylor 10-13
34mins SAINTS Try Roberts Con Myler 17-13
HALF-TIME SAINTS 17 GLOS 13
46mins SAINTS Pen Myler 20-13
50mins GLOS Yellow Buxton
51mins SAINTS Pen Myler 23-13
56mins GLOS Miss pen Burns
60mins GLOS Pen Burns 23-16
71mins GLOS Try Sharples 23-21
76mins GLOS DG Burns 23-24
78mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 26-24
FULL-TIME SAINTS 26 GLOS 24