London - Welsh wing George North contributed one of the tries as Northampton Saints went top of the Premiership with a fine 30-22 win over Harlequins on Saturday.
North, Tom Collins and Mickey Haywood touched down for Saints before Ahsee Tuala's try secured a bonus point and a fourth successive win sending them top ahead of Newcastle, who beat struggling London Irish 29-17 on Friday, on points difference.
Champions Exeter missed the chance to regain top spot as they slipped to a 20-13 loss at Leicester bringing to an end a three-match winning streak.
Tries by Australian Sevens star Nick Malouf and England international Jonny May sealed victory for the Tigers and only their second win in their last five meetings with their opponents, who for the first time in six matches failed to come back from being behind at half-time to win.
Next up for Exeter are in-form Newcastle but the Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards is not getting carried away with his team's early season form.
"It means absolutely nothing at all, we've got 17 games left," said Richards, whose side's only defeat this term was against Saracens.
"If we're there at the end of the season it will be a Leicester City scenario, because we haven't quite got the strength in depth that a lot of these other boys have.
"But, having said that, we're there and let's see how we get on."
Sale have been labelled dark horses for the title this season and their 57-10 dismantling of Gloucester on Friday -- former Australia golden boy James O'Connor scoring a try after coming on for his debut -- gave an indication they might live up to that tag.
However, their director of rugby Steve Diamond knows they need to improve their away form if they are to do so.
"We just need to put that form on the road," said Diamond. "What we've got to do is bottle what we've done this week, what we've done before London Irish and take it to Harlequins.
"We've got a real team on our hands... but what I've stressed to the lads is why not have a crack at it this year?
"I know many coaches who say 'it's a three-year plan'. It's rubbish, let's have a crack this year."
Saracens are third, a point adrift of the top two after a 25-3 win away at bottom side Worcester Warriors.
The two-time European champions' performance -- especially in offence where they failed to secure a bonus point -- left their director of rugby Mark McCall underwhelmed.
"We made some individual mistakes and the boys are frustrated as we weren't good enough to capitalise on all our possession in the second half," said McCall.
"We are pleased with our defence as it was very good, but our attack was very ordinary."