Saints skipper Dylan Hartley says stopping Exeter claiming anything from Saturday’s game at Sandy Park was ‘massive’.
Hartley and Co surged to a 30-19 victory in the west country to climb back up to fourth in the Aviva Premiership.
In the process, they crushed the Chiefs’ unbeaten home league record and shut the door on their hopes of stealing a losing bonus point.
And Hartley feels that could be crucial in the race for the play-off places as Saints now sit five points clear of seventh-placed Exeter.
“That was the key motivation coming here, knowing that they’re below us and if they win they would jump above us and we’d fall even further,” said the captain.
“The key point was to keep them out of it and not give them anything towards the end and I think that was massive.”
Saints had lost five of their previous seven games going into the clash at Sandy Park, dropping to sixth in the process.
But Hartley says belief in the Northampton camp remained high and he was delighted to see his side start 2013 in style.
“It was very pleasing,” he said. “We spoke about not making excuses.
“We understand we’ve had a tough month, we’ve played a lot of good teams but it’s good to start the new year with a win and climb up the table.
“We know how competitive the Premiership is and if you lose one week, as we’ve seen, you drop down the table and it just shows a couple of victories and you’re back in the mix.
“We believe in what we’re doing. I understand we’ve come under a bit of criticism but we believe in ourselves and we’re happy.”