Harlequins 37 Northampton Saints 19: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
With 12 minutes to go at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday afternoon, Saints' hopes were increasing quickly.
Though they were 30-19 down, they had largely bossed territory and possession since the break, with Ollie Sleightholme's sizzling score giving them some reward for their efforts.
Quins were under pressure, so much so that not one but two of their forwards were sent to the sin bin in quick succession.
The door was opening wider and wider for Saints, who looked sure to walk through it to claim at least two bonus points.
They needed just one more try to make it four for the day, and that would have brought them back into losing bonus point territory at the same time.
And with the home side two men down, the minimum requirement appeared to be those two points.
If Saints were smart about it, they could even come away with what would have been a huge win in the race for a top-four spot.
But what unfolded during the final minutes of the match was nothing short of shambolic.
Saints fluffed their lines time and again, allowing Quins easy get-outs when they should have been down the river without a paddle.
Passes went astray, knock-ons came, lineouts were lost and there was simply no composure in Saints' game.
Consequently, they not only failed to score a single point against their 13-man opponents, but they eventually conceded from the final play of the game.
It gave Quins, who had only had 20 per cent possession during the opening 20 minutes of the second half, a hugely flattering 18-point success.
And more importantly, it left Saints with nothing to show for their efforts.
It was another hugely frustrating weekend, following on from the late loss to Bath a week earlier.
Those two games left Saints supporters searching for answers after seeing their side do so well to win the four matches prior to that.
These really are points that have got away in such irksome fashion.
One thing that should be said is that Saints were lacking some backline leaders against a Quins side who could call on the likes of Danny Care and Mike Brown to steer their ship.
Had Saints had the likes of Dan Biggar and Piers Francis late on then things may well have been different.
As it is, Saints have a largely inexperienced backline who, despite matter how it eventually unfolded on Sunday, have huge potential.
Despite the defeat, there were still reasons to be really positive about some of those players, particularly Sleightholme, Tom James and Fraser Dingwall.
Those three produced really strong showings that they can look back on with pride.
But it is unlikely they will do that due to the nature of this defeat for the team.
Saints don't have time for what ifs though because their next two games come against other sides currently ensconced in the battle for a play-off place, Sale Sharks and Bristol Bears.
It doesn't get much easier, but if Saints can find a way to stop shooting themselves in the foot at key times, they should still have high hopes about what they can achieve in the weeks and months to come.
How they rated...
The young full-back, who turned 20 on Friday, didn't do much wrong against the club he supported as a boy... 6
Fans had been wondering where the wing had gone as he had not been in the team recently, but he returned with a try and a decent showing... 7
FRASER DINGWALL - CHRON STAR MAN
Really didn't deserve to be on the losing team. Racked up a hat-trick of try assists in a fine individual showing... 8
Wasn't really able to make his mark on this occasion as Quins put real pressure on him, stopping him pulling the strings at any point... 5.5
A hugely impressive 50 minutes from the lightning-quick wing, who won turnovers, made key tackles and scored a stunning try... 7.5
Came agonisingly close to a score on a couple of occasions but he wasn't really able to open the doors he wanted to and it was a difficult day overall... 5.5
The scrum-half continues to look like a real find for Saints. His passing is so sharp, he has an eye for a try and he was really impressive here... 7.5
Plenty of fire and desire from the prop, who fronted up against his former employers and who is looking like a decent signing... 6
Played a part in Collins' try but wasn't able to keep hold of the ball on a couple of occasions as Quins got it back... 6
No shortage of energy and commitment from the prop, who tried to carry the fight to Quins and defended with force... 6
Put in plenty of graft for his side and kept going until the end as he tried to help Saints pick up some points... 6
Another big shift from the Fiji lock, who carried time and again as he looked to put Quins on the back foot... 6.5
It was a big blow for Saints to lose this man to concussion during the second half as he could have played a key role late on... 6
Was unfortunate to pay the price for his commitment to the cause as he came off with concussion during the first half... 6
Made some big metres for his team during the early part of the second half and kept fighting throughout... 6.5
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
JJ TONKS (for Ludlam 29)
Got stuck in as much as he could and looked hungry for action as he sought to stake his claim for more minutes... 6
MIKE HAYWOOD (for Matavesi 50)
The hooker tried to get his team going with an offload or two but they couldn't keep their composure when it mattered... 5.5
ALEX WALLER (for Auterac 50)
Gave away a penalty that allowed Quins to extend their lead and wasn't able to lead his team to victory on this occasion... 5.5
EHREN PAINTER (for Hill 50)
In a game that started to become increasingly about whether Saints could string attacking moves together, it wasn't the kind of game the prop thrives on... 5.5
TAQELE NAIYARAVORO (for Sleightholme 50)
Wasn't able to have an impact on the game and will be disappointed with his ball security that allowed Quins to get possession back... 5
HARRY MALLINDER (for Freeman 56)
Had some good moments just after coming on but made a couple of uncharacteristic errors late on... 5
HENRY TAYLOR (for James 59)
Was tasked with keeping the tempo high for Saints but couldn't get the ball in dangerous positions. Did cover well on one occasion... 5.5