Tries from Ken Pisi, Soane Tonga'uiha and Gerrit-Jan van Velze steered the visitors to a 30-19 victory, with Stephen Myler kicking three conversions and three penalties.
Exeter, who either side of Christmas narrowly lost at Gloucester and were then denied a home victory over Bath by a late converted penalty try, made just one change among their backs with Ian Whitten starting in the centre in place of Jason Shoemark.
In the pack Ben Moon started at loosehead prop with Neil Clark at hooker. Dean Mumm switched to the second row and was joined by James Hanks while Tom Johnson and Ben White made up the back row with skipper for the day Richard Baxter at number eight.
The Saints, who went into the game one point above Exeter, named an unchanged back division while Tonga'uiha came in at loosehead prop, Paul Doran Jones at tighthead, Mark Sorenson at lock and Calum Clark at blindside flanker.
Both sides committed unforced errors in the opening minutes but 10 minutes into the game full-back Luke Arscott found a gap on his 30-metre break and then passed outside to wing Matt Jess who was taken to ground just outside the Saints 22.
Exeter were rewarded for their possession advantage and when flanker Phil Dowson was penalised at the breakdown and fly-half Gareth Steenson drilled the penalty kick through the uprights to put the home side in front.
But Northampton hit back as Arscott's poor kick from deep was collected by fly-half Myler who put full-back Ben Foden away on the counter-attack and he slipped past his opposite number before offloading to wing Pisi.
The Samoan international jinked to avoid centre Phil Dollman's try-saving tackle attempt to touch down behind the posts. Myler added the simple extras and then added a long-range penalty on the half hour.
The fly-half, who saw his next attempt hit the upright, then added a second penalty from out wide on the left. Exeter reduced the arrears as Steenson added a penalty after England hooker Dylan Hartley was sent to the sin bin as his side led 13-6 at the break.
Exeter started the second half looking to take advantage of the extra man against a seven-man scrum which they wheeled, allowing Steenson to reduce the deficit further with his third penalty.
Myler cancelled that out with a 38-metre kick before Arscott was stopped short, but the home side cut the arrears to four points with Steenson's fourth penalty just before the Saints were restored to full strength with Hartley back on the field.
Exeter were then forced to defend their line and when the Saints were awarded a penalty close to the line they opted to kick to touch. From the line-out and resultant drive Tonga'uiha got the touchdown and Myler converted.
The Saints line was put under pressure, and with the referee playing advantage replacement centre Sireli Naqelevuki powered over for a Chiefs try which replacement fly-half Ignacio Mieres converted.
Northampton, from another catch and drive, crossed for their third try after referee Greg Garner referred the matter to TMO Geoff Warren, with number eight Van Velze getting the touchdown and Myler adding the touchline conversion.
- Sports & Recreation
- Stephen Myler
- Gareth Steenson