A try from Wales juggernaut George North sparked Saints into life as they beat Harlequins 23-9 at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.
North bulldozed Quins wing Charlie Walker to score early in the second half and skipper Dylan Hartley also registered as Jim Mallinder’s men claimed their sixth successive Premiership home win.
Stephen Myler added 13 points with the boot as Quins, who were level at 6-6 at half-time, were made to pay for poor discipline, with Tom Guest and former Saints prop Paul Doran-Jones both being sent to the sin bin.
Two penalties from Nick Evans and one from Ben Botica kept them in contention, but Saints eventually had too much as they moved to the top of the table ahead of Saturday’s games.
Northampton, fresh from their battering of Bath, were straight into their stride, knocking loudly at the Harlequins door with Samu Manoa, in particular, gaining plenty of ground.
The away side were forced to offend, giving Myler the chance to put his team ahead from the tee, and it was one he took.
Quins No. 10 Evans responded almost immediately before the game descended into a succession of scrum battles for the following 10 minutes.
It finally awoke from its slumber on the 19-minute mark as Quins pushed for the line, with only some strong defending from Saints stopping them at the last.
But Evans was able to add another three points to his team’s tally, giving them a 6-3 lead.
Saints needed a spark and they got it from Myler’s boot as, almost like a golfer landing a chip on the green, the fly-half placed a penalty in the corner.
From the resulting lineout, Quins flanker Tom Guest was sin-binned for pulling down a maul, giving the home side a numerical advantage.
But they were only able to add three points during the time Guest was off the pitch as minute after minute was wasted in resetting scrums.
The teams went in level at the break, but Quins were dealt a blow at the interval as injured fly-half Evans was unable to reappear for the second half, being replaced by Botica.
And Quins were soon hit with another punch as North grabbed a clearance box kick from Karl Dickson, charged towards Walker and knocked the wing over before scoring.
Myler made it 13-6 with a well-struck conversion from wide left but, limping badly, missed a more straightforward penalty soon after.
Saints resisted the chance to take their injured kicker off, instead throwing Tom Wood and Kahn Fotuali’i into the action to freshen things up in other departments.
Quins, meanwhile, reduced the lead as Botica landed a long-range penalty to keep his team in contention.
Myler responded as referee Greg Garner used to TMO to review two incidents, leading to a Saints penalty in the Quins half for an obstruction on full-back Tom Collins.
The away side were getting on the wrong side of the referee and after Doran-Jones became the second Quins player to be carded, Hartley popped up to score after a fluffed lineout from the visitors.
Myler made the conversion with some help from the crossbar to push Saints into a 23-9 lead with seven minutes remaining.
George Pisi was sin-binned for a poor tackle on Matt Hopper before the end, but it mattered not to the final result as Saints claimed another win on home turf.
Saints: Collins (Autagavaia 75); Elliott, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler (G Dickson 75), L Dickson (Fotuali’i 61); A Waller (E Waller 67), Hartley (c) (Haywood 73), Ma’afu (Mercey 67), Lawes, Day, Clark, Dowson (Wood 60), Manoa (Dickinson 75).
Harlequins: Brown; Walker, Hopper, Molenaar, Smith (Lindsay-Hague 75); Evans (Botica 40), K Dickson; Marler (Lambert 73), Ward, Collier (Doran-Jones 67), Matthews (Kennedy 55), Robson, Guest (Trayfoot (61), Robshaw (c), Easter.
Replacements not used: Crumpton, Stuart.
Referee: Greg Garner