Newcastle Falcons rallied for a losing bonus point but could not find the winning score at London Irish on Sunday, despite a strong finish.
A tension-filled battle of the Aviva Premiership's bottom two turned on the opening five minutes of the second half, when tries from Alex Lewington and Topsy Ojo both dotted down tries.
Former England international Shane Geraghty's half-time introduction was instrumental in that, the fly-half creating both tries and adding a pair of touchline conversions.
That left the visitors with a 20-point mountain to climb, and although they chipped away commendably towards the end through Nili Latu's try, their welter of late pressure delivered field position but no points.
The Falcons enjoyed the first attacking foray of the afternoon when Michael Young dextrously scooped an Irish chip ahead off his toes, beating the front-line defence and scampering to the 22.
The move fizzled out in back play but the visitors had no shortage of possession, Scott Lawson a willing runner on the day the former Scotland hooker returned to the starting side.
The Exiles registered the opening points via the boot of Chris Noakes, the former Highlanders fly-half slotting from just outside the 22 on seven minutes.
Simon Hammersley was on hand to watch the ball go dead when the Kiwi tried to pin Newcastle back inside their own half, neither side finding any great degree of attacking cohesion in a scrappy opening 40.
Hammersley countered down the left from inside his own half as the Falcons searched for a way into the game, but they trailed by six on 26 minutes when Noakes sent over his second penalty from in front.
Mark Wilson's energetic ball-carrying and Ally Hogg's support play kept Newcastle probing away, and they thought they had the first try when Craig Willis' grubber kick and Topsy Ojo's fumble saw Chris Harris dot down in the left corner.
Referee JP Doyle went to the video, the try ruled out for a knock-on as the Falcons were left 6-0 down at the break.
Then came the pivotal period, Irish scoring direct from the kick-off when Geraghty's high, hanging restart was caught on the full by Lewington for a run-in to the corner.
Geraghty followed that up with a cross-field kick to the right corner which Ojo managed to ground, Newcastle getting off the mark on 55 minutes when Latu peeled off the back of a rolling maul for an unconverted try down the right.
Home skipper David Paice was sent to the sin-bin as the Falcons mounted pressure in the closing quarter, Andy Goode coming on the last half-hour and slotting an early penalty from in front.
Within five minutes he was converting Marcus Watson's try from the left touchline, the winger having chased down a kick to the corner as Irish hung on for dear life.
Newcastle finished the game by far the stronger as they turned to a tight, forward-based game, but the breakthrough just would not come as Irish repelled wave after wave of attack to cling on for the victory.
Ojo, Lewington, Hearn, Williams, Tikoirotuma, Noakes, McKibbin, Court, Paice, Franks, Symons, Lloyd, Sinclair, Narraway, Treviranus
Replacements Cruse, Smallbone, 'Aulika, Trayfoot, Cowan, Allinson, Geraghty, Mulchrone
Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Socino, Watson, Willis, Young, Vickers, Lawson, Ryan, Wilson, Robinson, Welch, Latu, Hogg
Replacements McGuigan, Rogers, Vea, Botha, Clever, Booth, Goode, Agulla
referee: JP Doyle
assistant: Greg Garner
assistant: Roy Maybank
TMO: Graham Hughes