Leicester Tigers were beaten 24-13 after a Saracens fightback in the final quarter of a Gallagher Premiership Round 13 contest on Saturday lunchtime.
Chasing only a third win in 12 visits to the Allianz in North London, Tigers conceded the opening points from a converted try by Alex Lewington but were still in the game at half-time as two Tom Hardwick kicks cut the gap to 7-6.
Then a try from Ben White, bursting through after good work from the forwards, put Tigers in front.
It was a lead the visitors held for just seven minutes, though, as Dom Morris scored after a yellow card for Telusa Veainu and Lewington added his second to push the hosts clear.
The Tigers selected a heavyweight pack with Nephi Leatigaga, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Joe Heyes into the front row of a team led by Sione Kalamafoni, while Saracens welcomed prop Mako Vunipola after his release from the England squad.
Saracens got the game started with Tigers looking regimented in possession and keen in defence in the opening minutes in their own half, though two over-hit kicks in behind the Sarries line ran dead on the artificial pitch, bringing play back up to halfway.
Hero of the home win over Worcester in Round 12 after appearing from the bench in the opening minutes following injury to Noel Reid, McPhillips was hurt in contact and left the field after treatment to his right knee. Tom Hardwick came on at 10.
Second-row partners Joe Batley and Will Spencer were heavily involved in the defensive work, with the former halting Sarries progress as he made a hit on Richard Wigglesworth on the edge of the away team’s 22.
But it was the home side who got the first points on the board as a penalty on halfway gave them a chance to gain territory down the left and set up a score for Alex Lewington.
Tom Woolstenholme was heavily involved, taking play on from the lineout and then it was a process of putting ball through hands until wing Lewington hit a gap to run in on the right. Manu Vunipola added the kick for a seven-point lead on 18 minutes.
Tigers almost created a reply with a smart lineout move involving skipper Kalamafoni and White which set Holmes clean through, only to hear the whistle from referee JP Doyle for a not-straight throw.
Mako Vunipola was penalised at the resulting scrum and Hardwick landed the kick to get Tigers on the board with 25 minutes played.
Holmes then had to act smartly to read a grubber kick from Brad Barritt before Saracens centre Dom Morris could latch on to it. Just 20 metres out from the Tigers posts.
Back on the attack, Spencer made a superb charge up the middle, knocking off the first tackler and then taking on the final man in contact before being taken to the floor two a couple of metres short of the tryline. When Sarries were caught offside as the ball was recycled, Hardwick chipped the kick over to make it 7-6 at half-time.
The second half began with Saracens on the ball and Tigers again working hard in defence just inside their own half and Lewington threatened again as he broke down the right before being closed down.
Play came back, though, for a penalty on the left and the visitors were pushed back into their own 22 until Leatigaga showed his value over the ball, frustrating Saracens and winning a penalty.
More good work on the ball, this time from Kalamafoni, won more turnover ball and Batley broke 40 metres upfield, handing-off Wigglesworth before being tackled just inside opposition territory.
A lineout steal from Harry Wells gave Tigers valuable ball and moments later they took the lead with White’s excellent score.
The attack began on the centre-spot with Joe Heyes popping ball for Spencer to carry on and when White arrived on his shoulder the scrum-half sprinted to the line, with Lewington in pursuit. Hardwick added the kick to make it 13-7 to the visitors.
Bodies lying on the ball, though, cost Tigers a penalty as Saracens got back upfield and fly-half Vunipola kicked the three-pointer to trim the deficit.
Moments later, Telusa Veainu was sin-binned as he was penalised for a deliberate knock-on as Barritt looked for support in attack. And the loss was compounded by a second Saracens try, this time from centre Dom Morris after some patient work just a few metres short of the tryline. The conversion from Vunipola made it 17-13 on 62 minutes.
Calum Green made his return from injury as a replacement for Batley but the reigning Premiership champions were threatening to add more pain as they attacked down the left and then took play almost up to the line before wing Rotimi Segun knocked-on.
Despite the error, Tigers remained pinned back as Veainu returned for the final 12 minutes and Lewington grabbed his second score as he wriggled free on the left. Vunipola’s conversion made it 24-13.
Sarries were still looking for a bonus-point try and almost had it as Ben Spencer kicked loose ball upfield and Ali Crossdale added the final touch. Referee JP Doyle wanted to check for a potential knock-on and, after checking, chalked it off.
A tap penalty from White almost found a breakthrough for Tigers, but when they were closed out, the whistle went for another penalty. This time, Saracens wrapped up ball in the corner through monster lock Will Skleton in the final action of the game.