Saints suffered their fifth home defeat of the season as a Jonny May-inspired Gloucester claimed a crucial 27-11 win at Franklin’s Gardens.
May, who was everywhere, including in the sin bin at one point during the second half, used his speed to scoop up two tries for the Cherry and Whites.
Full-back Rob Cook kicked superbly to add 14 points, sending Gloucester above Saints in the league standings as the battle for a play-off place intensifies.
Jim Mallinder’s men were hit by yellow peril, with both GJ van Velze and Samu Manoa being sent to the sin bin in the first and second half respectively.
And, overall, they had very little to celebrate, with the exception of Phil Dowson’s 52nd minute score and Stephen Myler’s penalty double, on another tough day at the office.
Saints had beaten Gloucester in both of this season’s previous meetings, but they never came close on this occasion.
Instead, their performance was an antithesis of the one they put in when slaying the Cherry and Whites 24-19 on the opening day of the league season in September.
They had gone into the game desperate to bounce back from the 28-19 LV= Cup defeat at Exeter a week earlier.
But without the services of England full-back Ben Foden, who was left out at the matchday squad at the request of the RFU, they lacked a spark.
One area of weakness in the defeat at Sandy Park had been Mike Haywood’s lineout throwing and he was wayward early on in this clash.
But Northampton were more secure in the scrum, squeezing a penalty out of the away pack early on to go 3-0 up through the boot of Myler.
Gloucester replied immediately through Cook, who adopted the stance of a frog before booting the ball through the posts.
Cook was at it again moments later to move the Cherry and Whites into the lead, as Saints were struggling to make the ball stick.
When the home side did get in the groove, they were halted by a Gloucester infringement, but Myler, unusually, skewed the resulting penalty wide of the posts.
If the Franklin’s Gardens faithful were left cursing that miss, they were in even worse spirits moments later thanks to Gloucester dangerman Jonny May.
May turned on the turbos to fly through a static Saints rearguard and dot down, jumping onto the advertising hoardings in celebration.
It was a poor try to concede and the only positive came in the form of Cook’s missed conversion.
Saints almost responded immediately as Haywood surged towards the post, but the hooker was stopped agonisingly short by some defiant defending.
Myler cut the deficit to five with a penalty, but Cook was showing his kicking capabilities at the other end, landing two more three-pointers to push Gloucester 17-6 ahead.
Saints were under all sorts of pressure as the opposition cranked up the heat, closing in on a second try.
And van Velze paid the price for some desperate last-ditch defending, receiving his fourth yellow card of the season to the disgust of the home faithful.
Gloucester were threatening to finish the game before the break, but Saints showed real defiance in a desperate situation, winning a penalty at the scrum to hold out.
They needed to display similar resilience at the start of the second half but they served up the opposite to throw the game away.
James Wilson was unable to gather in the midst of an attacking move and May picked up inside his own half before speeding over the tryline.
Cook converted with ease and Saints had a mountain to climb at 24-6 down. And with the constant handling errors blighted their game, a resurgence looked hugely unlikely.
They were to get a helping hand, though, as May put a blot on his personal copybook, with a sin binning.
Saints looked to have made the extra man count immediately, but again they were made to pay for poor handling as Soane Tonga’uiha dropped the ball after driving over the line.
Northampton did have their try on 52 minutes as Mr Reliable, Dowson made the most of another good push, but it was to be a bittersweet moment for Saints.
Manoa was sin-binned for an incident after the try and with the referee interrupting Myler’s conversion to dish out the card, the fly-half missed the kick.
Saints knocked on the door for a second try, but, as they had, throughout, Gloucester defended well.
And Cook put the gloss on proceedings with a penalty, to spark a supporter exodus with six minutes remaining.
They had clearly seen enough as Saints again stumbled on home turf.
Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Waldouck (May 68), Elliott; Myler (Lamb 63), Dickson (Roberts 74); Tonga’uiha (A Waller 52), Haywood, Mercey (Doran-Jones 52); Manoa, Sorenson; Dowson, Nutley, van Velze.
Replacements: McMillan, Craig, Oakley.
Gloucester: Cook; Sharples, Tindall, Molenaar, May; Mills, Robson (Cowan 63 (M Thomas 76)); Wood (Murphy 68), Dawidiuk, Harden; Lokotui, James (Cox 67); Savage, Qera (Buxton 76), Kalamafoni.
Replacements: D’Apice, Y Thomas, Trinder.
Referee: Martin Fox