LONDON Irish have one foot back in the Aviva Premiership after tries from Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Fergus Mulchrone inspired them to a 29-18 victory at Yorkshire Carnegie.
In the first leg of the Greene King IPA Championship play-off final, a further 19 points from the boot of Tommy Bell ensured Exiles are well in command ahead of next Wednesday's (7.45pm) return fixture at Madejski Stadium.
Bell put the visitors in front with a second-minute penalty, only for Joe Ford to level matters immediately.
Another Bell kick put Irish 6-3 in front, and when Hobbs-Awoyemi cut a beautiful line to take a Brendan McKibbin pass, the prop powered over next to the posts for the opening try of the game. Bell made no mistake in adding the extras.
Yet the home side again responded quickly, former Exile Mike Mayhew going over following a period of sustained pressure. Ford failed with the conversion but Carnegie had cut the gap to five points.
And they moved in front on 26 minutes when Jonah Holmes was able to escape the attentions of Topsy Ojo to cross the whitewash, with Ford's kick putting his side 15-13 in front.
Alex Lewington had an opportunity to put Nick Kennedy's men back in front, but after racing 40 metres, he spilled the ball with the try-line beckoning.
Ojo almost found redemption early in the second half, only to be bundled into touch, but Irish did score on 56 minutes when Mulchrone crashed over following good work from Lewington.
Bell landed the conversion and then two penalties earned at the scrum as the visitors surged into a 26-18 lead.
And a fifth successful Bell penalty with the last kick of the game ensured Irish return to Madejski Stadium in fine fettle.