Stephen Myler slotted the winning points on his 300th Saints appearance as Jim Mallinder’s men started 2017 with a hard-fought 13-12 win at Gloucester.
The key moment came six minutes from time as referee Matthew Carley made the brave call of awarding a penalty try after a deliberate knock-on from David Halaifonua.
The Gloucester wing was yellow carded and Myler added the extras from in front of the posts to secure a precious Aviva Premiership victory.
Saints had gone in at half-time 9-0 down after an abject first-half, during which neither team really looked like scoring a try.
But the away side showed real fight after the break, with Myler’s boot keeping them in touch and the penalty try ultimately proving pivotal.
It was a fine way for Myler to cap his milestone, having led the team out earlier in the day.
Saints had been under early pressure as a knock-on close to the visitors’ line gave Gloucester a platform to build on.
The men in white stood tall against a wave of pressure but after Alex Waller conceded a penalty, fly-half Billy Burns gave the home side the lead.
Myler had the chance to level the scores after Saints finally entered the Gloucester 22, but he missed a penalty he would normally expect to make.
Mallinder’s men were trying to outmuscle Gloucester, but the hosts were dealing with the sluggish attacks well, ensuring their lead was preserved.
And after a huge hit saw Ken Pisi drop the ball, Gloucester were back at the Saints door, winning a penalty that Burns landed to double his team’s tally.
It wasn’t long before another three points were added, with Saints penalised at the lineout, giving Burns his third tee kick of the day.
The error and penalty counts were rapidly increasing for Saints, who were struggling to get a foothold in the game as half-time approached.
When the away side did get the ball in enemy territory, they were struggling for any sort of penetration, which had largely been the story of their season so far.
Pisi, who had endured a tough half, was replaced at the break as Saints looked to Harry Mallinder to provide a spark from full-back, with Ben Foden switching to the wing.
Mallinder’s men had to up their game at the start of the second half, and they did, with Myler making the most of a spell of possession as he landed an easy penalty.
Gloucester were soon putting the pressure back on Saints though and after the TMO deemed they had failed to get the ball over the line in the corner, Burns missed a penalty.
Myler then cut the gap to three at the other end after some high-tempo play from Saints forced Gloucester to scramble, and it was game on with 20 minutes to go.
Burns restored Gloucester’s six-point lead soon after as George North, making his first appearance since suffering a head injury at Leicester on December 3, got isolated in his own 22 and was penalised.
The home side had kicked for territory well all afternoon and they continued to pin Saints back with clever nudges from their half-backs.
But Saints were looking solid defensively and they were to earn a surprise lead with six minutes to go as referee Carley awarded a penalty try.
Halaifonua was punished for a deliberate knock-on, with the wing sin-binned to add to his team’s dismay.
Boos rang out at Kingsholm as Myler landed the conversion to put Saints 13-12 up.
They still had some defending to do, but a big win by Jamie Gibson at the breakdown earned a penalty to help relieve some pressure.
And Saints saw it out to ensure they would start the new year with a scrappy but extremely welcome win.
Gloucester: Hook (Scott 67); Halaifonua, Symons, Twelvetrees, May; Burns, Heinz (c) (Laidlaw 64); Hohneck (McAllister 58), Hibbard (Matu’u 58), Ma’afu (Afoa 40); Savage, Thrush; Ludlow, Kvesic, Morgan (Moriarty 60).
Saints: Foden; K Pisi (Mallinder 40), Burrell, Hanrahan, North; Myler, Groom; A Waller (E Waller 60), Haywood, Brookes (Hill 60); Lawes, Day (Ratuniyarawa 79); Wood (c), Harrison (Gibson 64), Picamoles.
Referee: Matthew Carley