Saints were made to pay for a shocking first-half showing as they bowed out of the LV= Cup with a 28-19 defeat to Exeter at Sandy Park.
The home side, who had lost their previous four games in all competitions, went 22-0 up inside the first 32 minutes through tries from Ben White, Jack Nowell and Watisoni Votu.
Alex Waller got Saints on the board before the break, but it was a mountain to climb as they introduced some of their big guns just after half-time.
One of those pedigree players, Lee Dickson added two more tries for the away side and another, Stephen Myler kicked the extras.
The Chiefs were also hit with two late sin-binnings as White and Will Carrick-Smith saw yellow, but it was too little, too late for Saints.
Ignacio Mieres, who registered a total of 13 points, added the gloss, booting Jim Mallinder’s men out of the game and out of the competition.
Saints had gone into the game knowing only a bonus-point win would do after Bath’s 32-5 win at Gloucester earlier in the day.
But they never looked likely to get it as Exeter, donning a hot pink strip, started the game in electric fashion.
They had an early try to celebrate as a rapid break from speedy Fijian winger Votu resulted in White picking up and driving over.
Mieres easily added the extras from in front of the posts and the sleepy Saints needed to wake up. Fast.
The away side had opted to kick at every opportunity during the opening exchanges, but it wasn’t a tactic that was working for them.
Exeter were buzzing, and another flowing move, which was sparked by Josh Tatupu saw a second try in the space of the first 15 minutes, with Nowell going over in the corner.
Mieres scuffed the conversion, but Saints, who were struggling defensively, were in real trouble at 12-0 down.
The away side were in desperate need of inspiration, but their half-backs, Ryan Lamb and Martin Roberts weren’t providing it.
In contrast Exeter’s attacking aces were looking menacing, and the hosts stretched their lead to 19 points as dangerman Votu flew over and Mieres converted.
The fly-half added a penalty to make it 22-0 before loosehead prop Waller provided Saints with a platform to build on, scoring his second try in as many weeks.
The prop found himself on the end of a good lineout drive, the only move Northampton managed to string together in the first 40 minutes.
But Lamb missed the conversion and Exeter went in at the break boasting a comfortable lead.
Saints saw out nine minutes of the second half before calling for the cavalry, bringing on the big guns in Myler, Dickson, Soane Tonga’uiha, Phil Dowson and Samu Manoa.
The changes made an immediate impact, both in defence and attack.
Saints held out as Exeter pressed, won a penalty and turned up the heat on the home side, who were reduced to 14 men as White was sent to the bin.
Northampton made them pay immediately, the pack pushing forward with a heavy drive and scrum-half Dickson picking up to touch down.
Myler, unflustered, added the extras and his side were within 10 points, but Mieres soon altered that with a successful penalty attempt.
The home No.10 added another three points to put the game out of sight, from a Saints point of view, at 28-12.
Carrick-Smith became the second Chiefs player to head to the sin bin as the Chiefs cracked under forward pressure and Dickson again grabbed the ball to dot down.
Myler made it a nine-point deficit for Saints, but they were never within reach of the win they needed as they were left to concentrate their efforts on the league.
Exeter: Nowell; Votu, Whitten, Tatupu (Sestaret 70), Foster; Mieres, Chudley (Thomas 61); Rimmer, Yeandle, Brown, Welch, Hanks (Carrick-Smith 64), Muldowney, White, Horstmann (c)
Replacements: T Cowan-Dickie, Budgen, Fairbrother, Simmonds, Dorrian.
Saints: Foden (c); Wilson, Waldouck, Burrell (May 66), Elliott; Lamb (Myler 49), Roberts (Dickson 49); Waller (Tonga’uiha 49), Haywood (McMillan 67), Mercey (E Waller 66), Sorenson (Manoa 49), Day, Craig (Dowson 49), Nutley, van Velze
Referee: JP Doyle