Chiefs too good for Saints
Exeter moved back into the Aviva Premiership's top four as they completed a season double over league leaders Northampton.
The 21-10 defeat at Sandy Park meant Saints missed out on guaranteeing a place in the play-offs.
The sides were evenly matched at the break after Henry Slade had put the Chiefs in front with a penalty, but the England prospect was unable to convert Phil Dollman's touchdown while James Wilson crossed for the Saints who trailed 8-5.
The pace of the second half gripped a crowd of 12,139 with Slade adding two penalties and the conversion of a penalty try while the Saints had to settle for a late consolation try from Jamie Elliott.
Exeter were boosted by the return of full-back Dollman and England international Jack Nowell at outside centre plus an unchanged pack.
Northampton made three changes with Kahn Fotuali'i coming in at scrum-half, Gareth Denman at tighthead prop and Christian Day in the second row.
The visitors had the first opportunity to get points on the board but opted to kick a penalty to the corner.
Saints were pushed back at the resulting line-out maul before working the ball wide where it was spilled by centre George Pisi.
The Chiefs cleared their line before putting the Saints on the back foot and, with pressure from the Exeter forwards, the visitors were penalised at scrum and fly-half Slade landed the 25-metre kick.
The home side continued to apply the pressure and Dollman sold two dummies before cutting back inside to cross the line for the opening try.
Minutes later the Chiefs had skipper Dean Mumm sent to the sin-bin for collapsing the scrum.
The Saints pounded the opposition line trying to take advantage of the extra man but his pass to wing Ken Pisi was fumbled into touch just short of the line and again the Chiefs were able to keep the visitors at bay.
The Chiefs looked to have scored a second try when Dollman picked up in his own 22 and raced on a weaving run, trying to keep out of the reach of chasing full-back Wilson to cross the line.
But referee Wayne Barnes called up on TMO Geoff Warren who ruled that Dollman had knocked on.
Minutes later the TMO ruled that Wilson had managed to touchdown in the corner avoiding the cover tackles of Matt Jess and Slade.
Again the Saints were forced to defend their line and flanker Calum Clark was given 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Exeter appeared win to three penalties at a five-metre scrum - but no more yellow cards or a penalty try - and the visitors won the turnover to clear the danger.
Thirty seconds after the restart fly-half Stephen Myler became the third player to see yellow, taking Saints down to 13 men, and Slade added the resulting penalty.
The Exeter forwards showed their dominance, forcing the Saints to collapse and referee Barnes had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try which Slade duly converted to give the Chiefs a 13-point advantage.
Pisi took the ball back over his own line, forcing a five-metre scrum which saw the Saints concede three penalties and replacement prop Alex Waller, who had only been on the pitch for a torrid five minutes, being yellow carded.
Finally, number eight Thomas Waldrom picked up from the back scrum and Mumm looked to have ploughed through for a try but, on the advice of TMO Warren, referee Barnes ruled it out for another five-metre scrum in front of the uprights.
Exeter battered the Saints defence which stood firm until they were penalised for not releasing.
This time the Chiefs opted for Slade to slot over the three points, leaving the visitors with a mountain to climb in the final 25 minutes.
The Saints kept pressing as the clock ticked down and were finally rewarded with a try in the corner from wing Elliott, but Myler was unable to convert and it was little reward for the reigning champions.