A late Lima Sopoaga penalty snatched a 23-22 victory for Wasps at Newcastle.
The Falcons led 15-13 at half time and then 22-13 when Johnny Williams grabbed his second try, but a scorching 60th-minute score from Juan de Jongh converted by Sopoaga made it 22-20 and the Wasps fly-half then landed a crucial 45-metre penalty with eight minutes left for Wasps to clinch the points.
In a dramatic finish, Newcastle ran the ball back out when Sopoaga missed another 45-metre shot with 59 seconds on the clock and they went through 20 phases and six minutes of overtime before their brave attempt to save the game foundered.
Simon Hammersley, Toby Flood and Niki Goneva all made early breaks and it needed a very good tackle from Sopoaga to halt the Falcons full-back.
But it was Wasps who got on the scoreboard first with a 13th-minute try. Fly-half Sopoaga missed a long-range penalty but his clever kick through set up a try for Josh Bassett, which referee Karl Dickson initially ruled out but then awarded after checking with TMO Sean Davey.
It looked as if Hammersley’s tackle had driven Bassett over the dead-ball line but replays showed the winger had got it down in time to make it 5-0, Sopoaga missing the conversion.
Newcastle hit back five minutes later with Sinoti Sinoti pinballing off defenders from Hammersley’s pass to find Mark Wilson and the England forward rumbled in for his fourth try of the season.
Flood tried a quick drop-goal attempt for the conversion – and missed it – which indicated there may have been some doubt about the try.
Sopoaga did the same when Michael le Bourgeois appeared to have scored in the 23rd minute under the posts but Dickson stepped in and asked for the TMO, who ruled there had been a knock-on and Wasps had to be satisfied with a penalty from Sopoaga for offside.
Davey was called on again on the half-hour when Newcastle went to the corner three times with penalties and Johnny Williams eventually forced his way over.
On review, Davey awarded the try and Flood converted and then kicked a 36th-minute penalty for offside to make it 15-8.
Newcastle comprehensively failed to handle the restart, Wasps camping on the Falcons line, and from the resulting scrum Sopoaga threw an outrageous one-handed overhead pass for Marcus Watson to score in the corner against his former club and make it 15-13 at the break.
A massive run from Gary Graham was carried on by Sinoti and after he was hauled down close to the line, Williams snapped it up to go in – again after the TMO was called on – and Flood converted to make it 22-13 in the 47th minute.
It seemed Tom Penny had scored after an Adam Brockelbank breakthrough and Goneva’s inside pass, but the TMO was involved again and replays showed Penny was in touch.
It was something of a turning point, with Wasps dominating the possession which followed, and a couple of breathtaking moves had the Falcons scramble defence stretched and eventually broken when De Jongh scorched over and Sopoaga’s conversion made it 22-20 in the 60th minute.
The Wasps fly-half then kicked the 72nd-minute penalty from 45 metres when Newcastle started offside to put his side ahead 23-22 and Wasps held on in a frantic finish.