Late try flurry sees high-flying Exeter win at Worcester
Prolific try-scorers Thomas Waldrom and James Short once again came up trumps for Exeter as the Chiefs moved just two points behind Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens.
Both players claimed Champions Cup doubles against the Ospreys seven days ago, and they added to their season's tallies, leaving Worcester rooted in the Premiership's bottom three.
Short, Waldrom, centre Ian Whitten and flanker Don Armand posted tries during a bonus point 30-15 triumph secured through an impressive final 22 minutes after five Tom Heathcote penalties meant Worcester were level approaching the hour mark.
Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked two penalties and two conversions, setting Exeter up nicely for next Sunday's top-of-the-table Sandy Park appointment with Saracens.
The Chiefs were by no means at their best, but it says everything about them that they still claimed a five-point maximum and once again confirmed their status this season as serious league title contenders.
Worcester, though, are at the Premiership's bottom end, and they are by no means out of the relegation woods as the domestic campaign approaches its halfway point.
England elite squad member Luke Cowan-Dickie was drafted into Exeter's starting line-up as illness ruled out hooker and skipper Jack Yeandle, with Steenson taking over as captain, while Worcester started Tevita Cavubati at lock instead of Darren Barry, who had been due to make his comeback from injury.
Exeter, back in action following their thrilling progress into the Champions Cup quarter-finals last Sunday, took just three minutes to open their account.
And it was a brilliantly-executed try as Steenson moved possession wide from a lineout, full-back Phil Dollman timed his midfield interjection perfectly and Short finished off in the corner.
Worcester had their hands full in the opening minutes, but they quickly cut the deficit, courtesy of a long-range Heathcote penalty that made it 5-3, and Chiefs suddenly had some defensive issues as Warriors wing Cooper Vuna tested them with his trademark power.
A second Heathcote penalty edged Worcester in front, only for Exeter to conjure another neat try 12 minutes before half-time as scrum-half Will Chudley initially linked with Short before handing Whitten a scoring pass.
Steenson's conversion took the visitors six points clear, but Exeter continued to infuriate referee Craig Maxwell-Keys with poor technical discipline, and Heathcote took advantage by kicking two penalties in seven minutes to make it 12-12.
The former Bath number 10 then had a chance to secure an interval advantage, but his long-range effort from the final kick of an entertaining first-half drifted narrowly wide.
Steenson and Heathcote exchanged penalties at the start of the second half, before Worcester blew a golden try-scoring chance when Heathcote's intended long pass to Vuna proved way off target and the ball rolled harmlessly into touch.
A more composed attacking unit would have made the opportunity count, but Worcester remained well and truly in contention through a combination of Heathcote's goalkicking and their own persistent tendency to infringe.
However the Chiefs struck for a third try after 58 minutes after Steenson opted not to kick for goal, booting to touch instead, and his decision was rewarded when Exeter's forwards drove the resulting lineout, allowing Waldrom a simple finish as he collected his seventh Premiership touchdown this term.
Steenson's conversion put Exeter seven points in front, and then Armand crossed wide out before a Steenson penalty saw Exeter hit 30 points and leave Worcester looking over their shoulders, with just London Irish and Newcastle below them in the table.