Tommy Bell put London Irish in a strong position in the Championship play-off final as he booted 19 points in a 29-18 first-leg win over Yorkshire Carnegie.
With a home leg to come at the Madejski Stadium next Wednesday, the victory at Headingley puts Irish in pole position for a swift return to the Aviva Premiership.
Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Fergus Mulchrone scored tries for Irish to add to Bell's five penalties and two conversions.
Jonah Holmes and Mike Mayhew scored tries for Carnegie with Joe Ford adding two penalties and a conversion.
Irish took an early lead when Bell fired over a second-minute penalty but they were not ahead for long as three minutes later Ford responded with a penalty for the hosts.
Carnegie second row Matt Smith was the next player to infringe, carelessly going offside at a ruck and allowing Bell to put his side back in front.
At that stage the game looked set for a kicking duel between the top two point-scorers in the regular season, Bell topping the Championship chart with 193 to Ford's 192, but both sides soon opened their try-scoring accounts.
After 13 minutes, Irish scored the first when a well-judged pass from scrum-half Brendan McKibbin sent Hobbs-Awoyemi through a huge gap in the home defence for the prop to run 20 metres to score.
The home side reacted quickly as Richard Mayhew powered away from a line-out 15 metres out from the Irish line before feeding hooker Mike Mayhew. He crashed over to leave Carnegie trailing 13-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Five minutes later, the hosts went ahead for the first time as a brilliant try rattled the promotion favourites. Centres Pete Lucock and Tom Casson combined cleverly in midfield to create an opportunity for Holmes and the wing took full advantage by rounding a weak tackle from Bell for his 14th Championship try of the season.
That brought the wing level with Doncaster's Tyson Lewis at the top of the Championship try-scoring chart.
Ford's conversion gave the hosts a deserved 15-13 half-time lead and after the restart, a penalty awarded against Aseli Tikoirotuma for a high tackle on Holmes quickly put Carnegie back on the attack.
However, on this occasion the Irish defence stood firm as the visitors displayed a change of tactics for the second half.
Their forwards were preferring to rely on frequent drives as opposed to feeding their backs at every available opportunity.
The change paid dividends as it allowed Irish to pin their opponents in their own 22, but elementary errors from James Marshall and Ofisa Treviranus stopped them from capitalising.
The pressure finally told when a strong run from the impressive Alex Lewington set up a try for Mulchrone, which Bell converted with a superb touchline kick.
Carnegie would not lie down and two excellent bursts from Chris Elder secured them a platform in the Irish 22, with Ford reducing the arrears with a penalty after McKibbin was yellow-carded for a deliberate obstruction.
But three further penalties from Bell rewarded Irish's second-half dominance.