London Irish suffered late heartache at the Brentford Community Stadium, going down 21-16 to Leicester Tigers.
Leading with nine minutes to play, Irish were undone by two late George Ford penalties, as the Tigers maintained their 100 per-cent start to the season.
On a sun-drenched afternoon in West London, the opening exchanges flowed back and forth.
Genuine scoring chances were few and far between though in that period, as the clock ticked past the quarter hour mark.
The first score of the contest eventually went the way of the visitors midway through the half – a rolling maul ending with Nic Dolly going over for his fourth try of the season.
Undeterred, Irish responded with a fine piece of attacking play of their own soon after – a swift backs move concluding with Ben Loader’s kick forcing the visitors deep into their own territory.
The Exiles were held up over the line from the resultant attack, but the threat was well and truly there.
The hosts’ reward arrived from the next phase, when a penalty was awarded – and Paddy Jackson reduced the deficit to two points with a trademark kick.
Tigers had a chance to respond seven minutes before the break with a penalty of their own – but George Ford’s effort flew wide from a central position.
Play soon switched to the other end – and Jackson made no mistake with a penalty from just inside the Leicester 22, to edge Irish in front just before the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Jackson was gifted with another penalty chance – and he made no mistake yet again, extending Irish’s lead to 9-5, with another sweet strike.
Leicester responded within five minutes, however, Hanro Leidenberg crashing over from close range for the visitors’ second try of the afternoon, with Ford adding the extras to make it 12-9.
The game was catching fire now – and it was Irish who would score next on 55 minutes.
From a line-out deep in the Tigers 22, Agustin Creevy was in the right place at the right time to break from the back of the maul and smash over.
Jackson converted, to put Irish into a four-point lead.
That lead was cut to one point six minutes later, when Ford kicked his first penalty of the afternoon, to set up a grandstand finish.
Ford was on target again nine minutes from time, as a topsy-turvy encounter swung back the way of the visitors once again.
That proved to be the final points of the contest, as the visitors hung on for a slender victory.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-5, 3-5, 6-5, 9-5, 9-10, 9-12, 14-12, 16-12, 16-15, 16-18, 16-21
London Irish: Tries: Creevy (55); Conversions: Jackson (56); Penalties: Jackson (26) (37) (45)
Leicester Tigers: Tries: Dolly (20), Leidenberg (50); Conversions: Ford (51); Penalties: Ford (62) (72) (77)
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema (Benhard van Rensburg 56), 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps (Hugh O’Sullivan 60), 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke (Allan Dell 53), 2 Agustin Creevy (Matt Cornish 63), 3 Marcel van der Merwe (Ollie Hoskins 60), 4 Steve Mafi (George Nott 56), 5 Adam Coleman (Rob Simmons 60), 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Ben Donnell, 8 Albert Tuisue (Sean O’Brien 51).
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 George Nott, 21 Sean O’Brien, 22 Hugh O’Sullivan, 23 Benhard van Rensburg.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge (c), 2 Nic Dolly, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Calum Green, 6 George Martin, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Hanro Liebenberg.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Guy Porter.
Referee: Mr Adam Leal