Exeter Chiefs 9-11 Harlequins
Exeter (6) 9
- Mieres 2, Steenson
Harlequins (8) 11
- Clegg 2
Rory Clegg scored a late winning penalty for Premiership leaders Harlequins as Exeter Chiefs fell just short of a shock victory.
Quins scored the game's only try in the first half as Danny Care weaved through some tackles to touch the line.
Chiefs' Ignacio Mieres scored two penalties to make it 8-6 at the break.
Gareth Steenson put the hosts ahead with a 74th-minute penalty but two minutes later Clegg scored only his second effort from seven kicks.
However Steenson could have won it in the final minute only to fire his drop goal attempt just wide.
Quins came into the game looking to bounce back from their 19-11 defeat by Saracens at Twickenham on 27 December, which had ended their 100% start.
Rory Clegg started at fly-half for the visitors because of a minor injury to first-choice Nick Evans.
They dominated from the start and Care opened the scoring after his quick-tap penalty, although Clegg fired the conversion wide.
The stand-in then skewed a penalty wide of the posts, with Mieres showing him how to do it for the hosts.
Care had a chance to add a second try but he dropped the ball in a good position.
Clegg was having a dire day with his boot and hit the post with a 29th-minute penalty. And three minutes later Mieres kicked a fine penalty from halfway to make it 6-5 to Exeter.
But in time added on at the end of the first half, Clegg opened his account from 31 metres.
However, that attempt did not improve his fortunes and he missed another two kicks in the second half.
Steenson replaced Mieres and his kick from halfway fell just short of the posts.
But after 34 scoreless minutes in the second half, the replacement scored what appeared to be a potential winner. The touch judges ruled that his penalty from 41 metres had dropped on the wrong side of the crossbar but the video referee correctly awarded the three points.
But with under four minutes on the clock, Clegg scored the winning penalty, although it would have counted for nothing had Steenson held his nerve with his drop goal attempt.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter:
"I can't stand here and say that we should have won the game. You can't expect an opposition goal-kicker in the Premiership to miss that many opportunities.
"But that said, we finished with our usual grit and determination and worked hard to conjure a match-winning moment a couple of minutes later in the game.
"I'm pleased with our endeavour; I'm pleased we were in it at the end and I'm pleased that there was an opportunity to win it at the end, but I am disappointed with elements of our game."
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea:
"Four days after our last game, I thought we played with incredible ambition, some good line breaks and off-loading, and I thought that we should have won the game quite comfortably.
"But they stayed in the game and we knew they would be looking at their record of coming back in the second half - look what they did against Sale and the Dragons.
"But I thought we played some magnificent rugby. I was not expecting it to be easy and it wasn't."
Exeter: Arscott, Camacho, Sestaret, Shoemark, Jess, Mieres, Thomas, Sturgess, Clark, Andress, Hayes, Muldowney, Baxter, Scaysbrook, Phillips.
Replacements: Tatupu for Shoemark (71), Steenson for Mieres (66), Barrett for Thomas (66), Alcott for Clark (57), Mitchell for Andress (45), Johnson for Phillips (52).
Not Used: Tui, Bentley.
Harlequins: Brown, Williams, Hooper, Turner-Hall, Monye, Clegg, Care, Marler, Gray, Fairbrother, Vallejos, Robson, Robshaw, Wallace, Guest.
Replacements: Lambert for Marler (71), Johnston for Fairbrother (50), Browne for Vallejos (71), York for Guest (71).
Not Used: Brooker, Bolt, Urdapilleta, S. Smith.
Ref: JP Doyle (RFU).