We're not there yet - Mallinder
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder is pleased that securing a place in the end-of-season play-offs now rests in his team's hands after their 18-15 Aviva Premiership victory over Exeter at Sandy Park.
The win gave the Saints a one-point advantage over the Chiefs and meant they just need to beat Worcester Warriors at Franklin's Gardens on May 5 to clinch a top-four finish to the regular campaign. The Chiefs are away to third-placed Saracens.
Mallinder said: "It's good that it's all in our hands but we can't worry too much about the semi-final. That is where we want to be, but we have to make sure that we beat Worcester because I know that Exeter won't give up at Saracens."
He went on: "It would have been a massive disappointment if we hadn't won but we said at the beginning of this season that it was going to difficult in World Cup year with a lot of players out - ourselves and Leicester in particular.
"We had a poor start to the season, without doubt, but we have had some good results during the middle of the season but we were disappointed last week when we were well beaten [losing at home to Leicester]."
Chris Ashton and Paul Diggin were Northampton's try-scorers, with Stephen Myler adding a conversion and two penalties. The hosts also crossed the line twice, scoring first and last through Gonzalo Camacho and Richard Baxter, with five points from the boot of Ignacio Mieres.
Exeter are only in their second season in rugby union's top flight and have already secured a place in next season's Heineken Cup, plus they ran Stade Francais close in their Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final tie.
Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter said: "You can be as pleased as you like to be playing in these big games but once they are within touching distance, and pretty close to getting a result, it is disappointing when you come up short.
"Let's face facts. We are thrilled to be playing in such an important game at this stage of the season but there is also the reality. We played very well in the first half and we had a lot of pressure moments but we didn't convert them.
"We let things slip a bit, particularly at the start of the second half and then we struggled to get back in to the management of the game. We will sit down with the guys and ask why we went into our shells a little bit."