Two tries by former Bulls back-row Gerrit-Jan van Velze helped Northampton to a 30-14 win over Worcester and a return to the top of the English Premiership log.
It was a bitter-sweet event for the No 8, who next season will move to Worcester, a team rooted at the bottom and heading for the second division. Saints were always in control despite the narrow 9-6 lead at half-time. They then opened up with a penalty try and a solid forward effort which was not wasted by Van Velze.
The win takes Northampton above Saracens, who had briefly taken the No 1 spot with a dour 15-10 win over Sale on Friday night.
Flyhalf Charlie Hodgson kicked five penalties in appallingly wet conditions to cancel out the efforts of Sale, who led with a driving-maul try by hooker Marc James, a conversion and a penalty by Danny Cipriani until the 59th minute.
The introduction of South African scrumhalf Neil de Kock off the bench provided Saracens with some momentum in the twilight stages, but the slow play ensured that Saracens were never going to break through for a more emphatic win.
Northampton and Saracens now have a comfortable lead after 14 rounds, and the battle goes on below for play-off places. Bath edged past Exeter to hold third place while Quins were not entirely comfortable, coming from behind for a 18-14 win over Newcastle. Toby Flood kicked a penalty with three minutes to go against Gloucester on Sunday to keep Leicester in the hunt for a play-off place.
Harlequins 18 Newcastle 14
London Wasps 20 London Irish 23
Northampton 30 Worcester 14
Exeter 23 Bath 27
Leicester 11 Gloucester 8
Photo: David Roger/Getty Images