Bath Rugby were left hurting after a last-minute penalty decision against Northampton Saints was eventually overturned to end an evenly-matched contest 19-19.
An indescretion by the home side at the opening scrum enabled Saints to take the lead through a Stephen Myler penalty. 0-3.
The name of the game throughout most of the first half was defence, punctuated by some stirring phases of attacking play from both teams. It was nearly half an hour before the scoreboard changed, Ford and Myler trading penalty kicks within three minutes of each other. 3-6.
Ford drew Bath closer with a penalty just minutes from half-time to square things up.
Half time: Bath Rugby 6 - Northampton Saints 6
Ford sent the apprehensive Bath crowd into rapture with a maverick solo effort in the 45th minute, following some majestic groundwork by Leroy Houston with the ball in hand. The fly-half converted his try, giving Bath a 13-6 lead.
Myler showed some skill of his own eight minutes later, showing a cool sleight of hand to put wing Jamie Elliott in for a try, which the fly-half converted. 13-13.
Near the hour, Bath had to adapt to having three props in the front row after injuries to both hookers. Rather than merely survive, they appeared to thrive, while flanker Guy Mercer did an admirable job throwing in at the lineout.
Another penalty from Ford was just the tonic for Bath with 20 minutes left on the clock, and then with Courtney Lawes yellow-carded for Saints for tackling the man without the ball. 16-13.
With Saints equally cutting in attack as well as defence, it was impressive that Bath managed to hold them out until the 67th minute, when Myler levelled the scores at 16-16 with a penalty.
Bath looked to have edged an extremely intense match with only two minutes left to play, as Ford held his nerve to send the ball sailing through the posts from outside the Saints' 10m. 19-16.
Alas, a minute later Bath had received a yellow card and Myler had clawed Saints back into the match. Bath then showed a remarkable desire not to let the win escape them: they reclaimed their restart and were then awarded a potentially match-winning penalty by the referee from a kickable position.
The drama intensified when the referee, after conferring with his assistant and the TMO, changed his mind about the original penalty and declared the match over.
The result sets up a mouthwatering encounter between Bath and Saints in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final on May 23rd at the Cardiff Arms Park.
Full time: Bath Rugby 19 - Northampton Saints 19