BATTLING Leeds Carnegie made champions Leicester Tigers fight for victory at Headingley with the kicking of Adrian Jarvis pinning back the visitors.
The Tigers appeared to be in control thanks to Manu Tuilagi’s converted try and Jeremy Staunton’s penalty.
But Leeds hit back after losing fly-half Ceiron Thomas to injury, with replacement Jarvis kicking two penalties to make it 10-6 at the break.
A third Jarvis penalty reduced the deficit to a point but Alesana Tuilagi touched down to win it for Tigers.
In holding on, Leicester secured a seventh successive Premiership victory to open daylight between themselves and second-placed Saracens.
But they were pushed all the way by bottom club Leeds, who picked up a potentially-priceless losing bonus point to close the gap between themselves and second-bottom Newcastle to three points.
That did not appear to be a likely scenario as Leicester, without five England internationals, dominated the opening 20 minutes.
They took only three minutes to open the scoring when Manu Tuilagi charged in from 15 metres after good work from his brother Alesana and Anthony Allen.
Staunton slotted the conversion and one of two penalty attempts before Jarvis, making his debut after signing from Bristol, entered the fray to kick-start the Leeds fightback.
He hit the upright with one long-range penalty, but Tom Denton forced a second simpler penalty which Jarvis slotted over.
Jarvis added two more either side of half-time to give Leeds the momentum, but it was Leicester who grabbed the decisive score when Alesana Tuilagi bulldozed over Leigh Hinton to score in the corner.
Staunton’s conversion attempt hit the post but any hope Leeds had of mounting a second comeback effectively ended when a clash between captain Marco Wentzel and Tigers’ Alesana Tuilagi ended with both players being sent to the sin bin.