Newcastle Falcons more than played their part in a full-blooded Aviva Premiership contest in Devon on Saturday, but were denied a share of the points by a pair of late tries.
Touch downs from Sam Hill and Elvis Taione in the final 10 minutes wrestled the game away from a Falcons side who had challenged the high-flying Chiefs all the way with their mixture of forward grit and line-breaking back play in a game which came to life after the interval.
Penalties from Gareth Steenson and Mike Delany ensured the sides were level 3-3 at half-time, Newcastle's defence repelling a persistent Exeter attack.
Repeated line out drives failed to deliver a try for the home side as Newcastle pumped their legs in the maul and dealt with the ball when it was spun wide, the visitors enjoying the better of the scrummaging exchanges.
That owed plenty to the contribution of Prop Mike Cusack on his club debut, the Glasgow Warriors loan man an imposing presence in the set piece as the Falcons got through their work.
Fly Half Delany, making his return to action after more than three months out injured, gained plenty of yardage with his defensive clearance kicks, his side trailing by three when Nili Latu's deliberate knock on handed Steenson a shot at goal from 15 metres out.
Latu was among the many warriors on show with some shuddering tackles, Newcastle going level on 29 minuets when Delany sent over a penalty from the right.
The Kiwi played 77 minutes in his comeback game, a feat in itself after more than three months on the sidelines.
A creative fulcrum with ball in hand, his side were nonetheless a converted try down five minutes into the second half when Thomas Waldrom caught a clearance kick within striking distance of the line.
Steenson converted, Newcastle going up the other end and restoring parity through Tane Takulua's try. The Tonga Scrum Half sped into the left corner after a blindside break from countryman Latu, Delany adding the extras from out wide.
The frenetic pace of the second period continued when Newcastle old boy Geoff Parling made a try for Fullback Phil Dollman, the Welshman collecting an offload five metres out for his side's second converted try.
Again, a steadfast Newcastle side were unperturbed, Latu barging his way over for a try from the base of a ruck between the posts after he, Delany and Juan Pablo Socino had broken from inside their own half.
The sin-binning captain Will Welch and a second Steenson penalty contributed to the visitors going behind after the hour mark, Newcastle repelling Exeter's driving maul but going behind when Hill scored down the right.
The missed conversion left Newcastle eight points down and with a sniff, but it was Exeter who grabbed the final try of the game when Taione emerged from under a heap of bodies with the ball in his mits.
Newcastle Falcons A Tait (T Penny, 24), G Venditti, C Harris, JP Socino, S Sinoti, M Delany (C Willis, 76), T Takulua (M Young, 66); A Rogers, G McGuigan (S Lawson, 69), M Cusack (K Hatakeyama, 55), M Botha, C Green (A Hogg, 55), M Wilson, W Welch (captain), N Latu. Sin-bin: W Welch (61) Falcons scorers – Tries: T Takulua, N Latu. Conversions: M Delany 2. Penalties: M Delany.
Exeter Chiefs P Dollman, O Woodburn, H Slade (M Bodilly, 72), S Hill, I Whitten, G Steenson, W Chudley (D Lewis, 54); B Moon (A Hepburn, 65), J Yeandle, H Williams (C Rimmer, 49), L Stevenson (O Atkins, 55), G Parling, D Armand, J Salvi (D Ewers, 55), T Waldrom. Chiefs scorers – Tries: T Waldrom, P Dollman, S Hill, E Taione. Conversions: G Steenson 3. Penalties: G Steenson 2.
Referee: C Maxwell-Keys. Attendance: 9,174.
Dollman, Woodburn, Slade, Hill, Whitten, Steenson, Chudley, Moon, Yeandle, Williams, Stevenson, Parling, Armand, Salvi, Waldrom
Replacements Taione, Hepburn, Rimmer, Atkins, Ewers, Lewis, Hooley, Bodilly
Tait, Venditti, Harris, Socino, Sinoti, Delany, Takulua, Rogers, McGuigan, Cusack, Botha, Green, Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements Lawson, Harris, Hatakeyama, Mayhew, Hogg, Young, Willis, Penny
referee: Craig Maxwell-keys
assistant: Simon McConnell
assistant: Kevin Stewart
TMO: David Rose