Bath came agonisingly close to recording their first away victory of the Guinness Premiership campaign, clawing their way back against the Leicester Tigers to 19-all midway through the second half, but despite their superb rearguard effort, they finished 29-25 down.
The game ran for nearly 100 minutes, with all the injury time, and though Bath trailed 19-10 at the break, the second half was a close and exciting affair, reminiscent of the quarter-final of last year's Heineken Cup at the Walkers Stadium, with Leicester reduced to thirteen men and Bath camped on their line.
Steve Meehan was disappointed with the result but proud of the spirit Bath showed: "We have got to concentrate on the positive things," the Head Coach said. "They showed guts and determination to claw their way back against a decent Leicester side, a 16,000 crowd, and some interesting decisions at times."
Bath had made a lively start, and dominated the opening quarter. They defended an early attack by Leicester very well, forcing the centre Dan Hipkiss to knock on after his midfield partner Daryl Gibson had taken play into the 22. Chev Walker tidied up, and eventually Chris Malone cleared to touch.
Another attack from the lineout by Leicester faltered with a knock on, and Zak Feaunati's pick-up from the scrum and feed to Nick Walshe took Bath well into Tigers territory. Soon after, Joe Maddock broke down the right-hand touchline and almost reached the tryline, but the cover was coming across and his pass infield went forward.
With eight minutes on the clock, Olly Barkley lined up his first penalty attempt, 49 metres out, dead in front of goal, when Leicester were penalised for hands in the ruck. But the ball dropped tantalisingly inches shy of the crossbar.
Bath continued to enjoy the best of possession and territory, but they could not come up with the points to show for it. When a Leicester clearance bounced all the way over Bath's deadball line, Bath were awarded a scrum back in a useful position in their home side's 22, and once again Maddock nearly crossed by the right-hand flag after a break by Barkley, but the ball went forward.
Still Bath penned Leicester into their half, but the Tigers kept the ball slow while maintaining their discipline, and eventually Bath were penalised for playing the ball on the ground, and Andy Goode kicked for touch over halfway. And they made the most of their first foray into Bath territory since the second minute. Claiming the lineout, they swung the ball quickly down the line to full-back Johne Murphy, who cut inside and ran round under the posts to score, and Goode converted.
The try - and their watertight defence to this point - gave Leicester obvious confidence. Goode went for as penalty from 55 metres, and his hefty boot missed only with the direction.
Eventually, Barkley got a second chance to put Bath on the board, with a penalty again in front of the posts, but only ten metres out. However, the Tigers struck again straight from the restart, when Tom Varndell kept the ball in play, and this time it moved quickly to the right wing, where Leon Lloyd stretched over to score. Only minutes later, Varndell himself scooted in from sixty metres, having collected a kick-through by back-rower Shane Jennings, and all of a sudden they led by sixteen points.
But there was still time to play before half-time, and after a short build-up of attacking phases, Maddock brought Bath back into the game when he twisted over the line despite the attentions of two tacklers. Barkley converted and the deficit was nine points at the break.
Barkley cut the Tigers' lead four minutes into the second half, with another short-range penalty after a bullocking run by James Scaysbrook.
Leicester soon got back within range, but this time Bath turned them over, and won a penalty. Walshe took it quickly, feeding Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, who had just replaced David Bory after the Frenchman was injured. Nick Abendanon then accelerated through a number of would-be tacklers, and though he was scragged just over halfway, Leicester were penalised and Barkley slotted three more points.
The game remained very open. One moment Bath were pressing the Leicester line, the next Lloyd had toed a ball almost into the hands of Varndell, who would have had the line at his mercy, but the wing could not hold on to the ball. Both sides started to make use of their replacements, and the fresh legs kept up the pace. And when Varndell was sent to the sin-bin for the latest infringement at the ruck, Barkley kicked three points to level the scores.
Minutes later, Shaun Berne, a replacement for Chris Malone took Bath ahead for the first time with a drop goal, but the lead was short-lived, as Leicester attacked immediately and in typical style, using quick hands to feed Gibson, whose try Goode converted.
Barkley's fifth successful penalty, for another indiscretion at the breakdown, pegged Leicester back, but all the second-half stoppages meant there was plenty left in the game, and Goode gave the Tigers breathing space when Bath were penalised for diving over the ball after Barkley had taken a big hit on his 22.
Six minutes into injury time, Bath won a kickable penalty, but they opted for the kick to touch and lineout. Danny Grewcock won it, but the ball was lost forward in midfield, and hacked up into Bath's half. But the excitement continued, when Abendanon again evaded the tacklers to take play over halfway, and then fed Barkley. The attack was thwarted, but play brought back for a late, high tackle by Henry Tuilagi on Abendanon, for which Tuilagi was shown a yellow card.
Bath kicked for touch, won the lineout, and got within inches of the line by the posts, but when it was swung to the left, Abendanon, with the line ahead of him, could not take the pass. Alesana Tuilagi followed his brother to the sin-bin.
Bath controlled the ensuing scrum under the posts, before it went wide again, but though Fuimaono-Sapolu crossed the line, he was held up, and at last - after 17 extra minutes - referee Wayne Barnes brought the match to an end.
Acknowledging that that it had been a thrilling game, Meehan said: "Both sides played for eighty minutes and I suppose you wouldn't expect anything less from a Bath-Leicester match."
21: Try Murphy, Conversion Goode, 7-0
38: Penalty Barkley, 7-3
39: Try Lloyd, Con Goode, 14-3
40+2: Try Varndell, 19-3
40+5: Try Maddock, Con Barkley, 19-10
44: Pen Barkley, 19-13
54: Pen Barkley, 19-16
67: Pen Barkley, 19-19
71: Drop goal Berne, 19-22
73: Try Gibson, Con Goode, 26-22
80: Pen Barkley, 26-25
80+3: Pen Goode, 29-25
BATH: 15. N Abendanon 14. J Maddock 13. C Walker 12. O Barkley 11. D Bory (Fuimaono-Sapolu, 50) 10. C Malone (Berne, 61) 9. N Walshe (Williams, 59) 1. D Barnes 2. P Dixon 3. M Stevens 4. S Borthwick (captain) 5. D Grewcock 6. P Short (Beattie, 68) 7. J Scaysbrook 8. I Feaunati (Delve, 58; Hawkins, 71)
Replacements: 16. R Hawkins 17. A Jarvis 18. A Beattie 19. G Delve 20. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 21. S Berne 22. A Williams
LEICESTER: 15. J Murphy 14. L Lloyd 13. D Hipkiss (A Tuilagi, 61; sin-bin: 80+14) 12. D Gibson (Burke, 80+3) 11. T Varndell (sin-bin, 67-77) 10. A Goode 9. F Murphy (Bemand, 57) 1. M Ayerza (Moreno, 67) 2. G Hickie (Buckland, 70) 3. A Moreno (Holford, 57) 4. T Croft 5. B Kay (captain) 6. B Deacon 7. S Jennings (Abraham, 75) 8. J Crane (H Tuilagi, 71; sin-bin 80+11)
Replacements: 16. J Buckland 17. M Holford 18. H Tuilagi 19. L Abraham 20. S Bemand 21. P Burke 22. A Tuilagi
Referee: W Barnes