Premiership: Exeter Chiefs 38-34 Bristol Rugby
|Exeter Chiefs (17) 38|
|Tries: Woodburn, Parling, Whitten, Waldrom 2 Cons: Slade 4, Steenson Pens: Slade|
|Bristol (24) 34|
|Tries: Woodward, Hurrell, Henson, Eadie Cons: Henson 4 Pens: Henson 2|
Thomas Waldrom scored two second half-tries to ensure Exeter a Premiership play-off spot with a dramatic victory over relegation-threatened Bristol.
Olly Woodburn's score inside 70 seconds put Exeter ahead, but tries from Will Hurrell, Jason Woodward and Gavin Henson helped Bristol go 14 points up.
Geoff Parling and Ian Whitten tries for Exeter helped restore parity.
Waldrom grabbed his brace either side of Mitch Eadie's effort, which ensured two crucial bonus points for Bristol.
If not for Waldrom's ninth try of the season three minutes from the end, Bristol would have moved to within five points of second-from-bottom Worcester.
As it is, they remain eight points adrift of safety, but the losing and four-try bonus points on their trip to second-placed Exeter will give them renewed hope of staying up even though games against league leaders Wasps and defending champions Saracens are still to come.
The hard-fought victory against a plucky Bristol side inspired by former Wales international Henson, who finished with 19 points, moves Exeter equal on points with Wasps at the summit, and with Bath beating Leicester earlier in the day, they are assured of a top-four finish.
Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter: "You must give Bristol credit as they snatched every chance they had.
"It was a tough old game and while there were excellent individual performances from Thomas Waldrom, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Olly Woodburn, we weren't collectively at our best.
"I felt the last two games (Sale and Bristol) have been no-win games for us and we need an exciting game to challenge us.
"Next Friday we are at Harlequins live on TV and hopefully that will bring the best out of us."
Bristol interim head coach Mark Tainton: "We were minutes away from a famous victory, as the players put in a hell of a shift and our defence was magnificent.
"When they scored an early try, it looked it could be a long afternoon but I'm frustrated that we didn't get the win.
"It's getting more and more difficult to avoid relegation but the boys aren't going to give in and we are hoping for a big crowd at Ashton Gate next Sunday against Wasps."
Exeter: Dollman; Nowell, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn; Slade, Maunder; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams; Lees, Hill; Dennis, Armand (capt), Waldrom.
Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Holmes, Parling, Ewers, Townsend, Steenson, Campagnaro.
Bristol: Woodward; Edwards, Hurrell, Henson, Tovey; Searle, Mathewson; Bevington, Jones (c), Cortes, Phillips, Sorenson, Jeffries, Lam, Eadie.
Replacements: Crumpton, O'Connell, Ford-Robinson, Glynn, Fenton-Wells, Williams, Newey, Amesbury.
For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion on Twitter.