JACKSON Willison’s last-gasp bonus point try was greeted triumphantly by the Sixways crowd and it could prove crucial in Worcester Warriors’ battle for Aviva Premiership survival.

It was a fitting end to a pulsating afternoon which saw Exeter Chiefs seal a 48-32 victory after Warriors had more than matched them for 44 minutes.

Warriors deserved something from the contest but paid a heavy price for a moment of madness from back row Alafoti Fa’osiliva who was sin-binned for a shoulder charge.

Only the Samoan will know why he committed the late challenge in front of referee JP Doyle and it was a match-defining moment.

Third-placed Chiefs are by far the best side to have pitched up at Sixways this season and their ability to raise the intensity was remarkable.

With Warriors down to 14 men, Chiefs turned an 18-17 deficit into a 36-18 lead with 26 minutes still remaining.

But Gary Gold’s side showed spirit and belief which was badly lacking earlier in the season to fight back with tries from Bryce Heem and Willison to snatch a deserved point at the death.

Clearly, Warriors’ defensive frailties remain and Exeter’s pace and power exposed the hosts during the 10 minutes when the match was ripped from their grasp.

Wing James Short was in superb form for the visitors, grabbing three of their seven tries.

Exeter are a bogey side for Warriors, having won all 10 Premiership showdowns and racking up an eye-wincing 105 points in the two fixtures between the clubs this season.

Warriors took the game to Chiefs from the kick-off and full-back Josh Adams crossed for the opening try after Francois Hougaard had spotted an opening and offloaded to Heem.

Ryan Mills slotted the conversion but Chiefs hit back, Gareth Steenson racing to the line after exploiting a gap between Nick Schonert and Ryan Bower. Steenson then kicked the extras.

Mills’ penalty restored Worcester’s lead and Perry Humphreys touched down, with the fly-half converting, to put the hosts 15-7 ahead after Heem’s strong run had created problems for Exeter.

Mills miscued a shot at the posts as the frenetic pace continued and Chiefs grabbed their second try from only their second visit into Warriors’ 22.

The dangerous Short collected a superb long pass from Phil Dollman to dive over in the corner and Steenson’s conversion brought Chiefs to within one point of the hosts.

Mills was off target with a penalty, but he landed another soon afterwards as Warriors’ confidence grew.

However, Steenson had the final word of the first-half with a three-pointer as Warriors led 18-17 at the interval.

Exeter seized the initiative at the start of the second half and the sin-binning of Fa’osiliva proved a game-changing moment.

Olly Woodburn, Short and Sam Simmonds all breached Warriors’ over-worked defence during a punishing spell as Exeter stepped up a gear, with Henry Slade adding two conversions.

Heem, who was strong in attack, gave Warriors a lifeline with their third try and Mills’ conversion clawed the deficit back to 36-25.

But the joy was short-lived.

In-form Italian centre Michele Campagnaro punched a hole through Heem to score and Slade’s conversion stretched Chiefs’ lead to 43-25.

Short completed his treble with seven minutes remaining after Exeter had worked an overlap. But Warriors dug in for the last five minutes.

The hosts’ persistence finally paid off when Willison grabbed their fourth try with 15 seconds remaining and Ryan Lamb added the conversion.

A five-point return from back-to-back matches against last season’s Premiership finalists Saracens and Chiefs gives Warriors a six-point cushion over relegation rivals Bristol and some much-needed confidence.