Manu Tuilagi scored what proved the decisive try on his 100th Leicester Tigers appearance as they beat bottom club London Irish 19-15 in the Premiership on Saturday.
Leicester had ended 2017 with six defeats in succession across all competitions and were far from convincing at Welford Road against the favourites for the drop.
Matt Toomua's try and George Ford's conversion gave Leicester a narrow 7-5 half-time lead after Joe Cokanasiga's score had put Irish ahead.
Jonny May went over for Leicester in the 42nd minute but Greig Tonks' penalty kept the visitors in touch.
However, Tuliagi celebrated his landmark by diving under the posts as the Tigers were rewarded for concerted pressure, rendering Alex Lewington's score six minutes from time nothing more than a consolation.
Northampton Saints ended a run of seven consecutive Premiership defeats by edging fourth-placed Gloucester 22-19 in dramatic fashion.
Northampton trailed 19-15 in the dying moments but were awarded a penalty try in the 80th minute when Gloucester collapsed a maul, finally giving the Franklin's Gardens crowd reason to celebrate as the visitors missed the chance to go second.
There was more drama at the AJ Bell Stadium as Sale Sharks required a late penalty to defeat Harlequins 30-29.
Quins trailed 17-5 after 25 minutes but went into the break 22-17 ahead thanks to tries from Charlie Walker and Ross Chisholm, and a Marcus Smith penalty.
Joe Marler was sent off in the 58th minute for a needless shoulder to the head of TJ Ioane and, though Jamie Roberts crossed again for Quins after AJ MacGinty had knocked over a penalty for Sale, the momentum swung back in favour of the hosts.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg's second try cut the gap to 29-27 and five minutes from time the boot of Faf de Klerk settled a thrilling encounter as he converted Sale's fourth penalty of the match.