Saints suffered their second crushing defeat in as many weeks as Exeter piled on the agony with a 21-10 win at Sandy Park.
Jim Mallinder’s men had headed to the west country desperate for some comfort after the 37-5 Champions Cup quarter-final collapse at Clermont Auvergne eight days earlier.
But what they got was salt rubbed in the raw wounds as the rampant Chiefs, who had won at Franklin’s Gardens in November, completed an Aviva Premiership double.
Referee Wayne Barnes handed out four yellow cards during the 80 minutes, with Calum Clark, Stephen Myler and Alex Waller the Saints who were deemed to have sinned.
And it proved costly as the Chiefs, who coped well with the loss of captain Dean Mumm to the bin, made the most of their personnel advantage to power to victory.
Phil Dollman’s score and Henry Slade’s boot had given Rob Baxter’s men an 8-5 half-time lead, with only James Wilson’s well-taken effort giving Saints any hope.
And it was one-way traffic after the interval as, with the Saints scrum melting, Slade continued to kick well and a penalty try pushed the hosts further ahead.
Jamie Elliott scored in the final minute, but it was too little too late for Saints, who remain six points clear at the summit.
The champions had been desperate for an early reaction at Exeter after the horror show in France and a spell of pressure on the home line provided a chance.
But Kahn Fotuali’i’s desire to move the ball quickly didn’t pay off as his pass failed to stick and the Chiefs were able to clear their lines.
And the home side, backed by the relentless beat of the Sandy Park drums, registered the first points as Slade kicked a penalty earned at a Saints scrum.
The Chiefs were starting to steal a march on Saints and a scything run from Dollman brought their first try.
Saints had been chasing shadows in the attempts to stop the full-back, but Slade missed the conversion to at least issue them with a slight reprieve.
And they were soon given an even bigger boost as lock Mumm offended from a lineout drive 10 metres out and was sent to the sin bin.
But Saints couldn’t use their extra man to any effect, with Ken Pisi’s attempted flick flying out of play at the last and Dylan Hartley’s pass intercepted five metres out.
Nothing was working for Saints and after Luther Burrell dropped the ball in the Exeter 22, Dollman picked up and raced home to score.
But it was pulled back for a knock-on by the Chiefs man.
That break had come from Mallinder’s men attempting to move the ball quickly in the opposition half, and finally their speedy play paid off.
Wilson showed great strength and balance to finish a flowing move in the corner, but Myler’s missed conversion left the gap at three points.
Saints’ revival was halted by a yellow card for Calum Clark, with the flanker penalised for an offence at the breakdown as Exeter moved ominously towards the try line.
Three Exeter scrum penalties later, Saints shut the door and Wilson cleared to ensure the deficit would remain three points at the break.
But their chances were hampered at the start of the second half as Myler was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Slade used the penalty to add three points to his team’s tally.
And it was soon to get worse for 13-man Saints as Exeter turned the screw at the scrum and referee Barnes awarded a penalty try, eliciting a roar from the home support.
Slade’s conversion took the home side into a 13-point lead and the men in lime were starting to crumble.
Alex Waller became the third Saint to sin as he was sent to the bin for a scrum offence before Slade added another three points.
Slade missed another penalty chance as Waller made his way back onto the field, and Saints claimed a late consolation through Elliott’s score.
Exeter Chiefs: Whitten, Nowell, Hill (James 75), Jess; Slade, Chudley (Lewis 75); Moon (Rimmer 58), Yeandle (Taione 67), Francis (Brown 56); Mumm (c), Lees; Ewers, White (Horstmann 58), Waldrom.
Saints: Wilson (Tuala 61); K Pisi, G Pisi (Stephenson 65), Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali’i (Dickson 55); Corbisiero (A Waller 47), Hartley (c) (Haywood 61), Denman (Mercey 47); Manoa (Dowson 71), Day; Wood, Clark, Dickinson (Fisher 55).
Referee: Wayne Barnes