Leeds Carnegie blew a 21-point lead at Franklin's Gardens to finish bottom of the Aviva Premiership and face probable relegation.
The West Yorkshire club's fate will not be decided for another 11 days following their 31-24 defeat against Northampton.
If Worcester win the two-legged Championship play-off against Cornish Pirates, then Leeds will drop out of English rugby's top flight as only Warriors meet Premiership entry criteria. But should Pirates upset the odds - the second leg is at Worcester on May 18 - then Leeds will survive on a technicality and live to fight another day.
If they do make the drop, then at least Neil Back's men bowed out by making a serious scrap of it, shocking Heineken Cup finalists Northampton through early tries from England flanker Hendre Fourie, his back-row colleague Rhys Oakley and wing Pete Wackett.
Saints, needing two points to secure a title play-off place, were at sixes and sevens at 24-3 adrift before normal service was eventually resumed through scores by skipper Phil Dowson and England wing Chris Ashton either side of a penalty try.
Fly-half Shane Geraghty kicked a penalty and two conversions, before his replacement Stephen Myler edged Northampton in front for the first time with a 53rd-minute penalty, and then added two later strikes.
Leeds had two players sin-binned and never came close to matching Saints' scrummaging power, and they spent most of the second half camped deep inside their own territory.
But despite making hard work of it, Saints sealed the fourth play-off spot, with Leeds' losing bonus not enough to finish above Newcastle - who were battered at Bath - ending in 12th place on points difference.