Warriors produced their best performance of the season, standing toe-to-toe with the reigning Gallagher Premiership and European champions and coming agonisingly close to earning victory.
Having gone 14 points down in as many minutes, Warriors recovered superbly and had Exeter rattled with Oli Morris and Duncan Weir – on his 50th appearance -scoring tries in each half to secure a losing bonus point.
That was the very least Warriors deserved for a passionate and committed performance that forced Exeter into a sequence of uncharacteristic errors.
Warriors were rock solid in the set piece, brave in defence and sharp in attack with the only blemish being poor discipline in the opening quarter.
The early sin-binning of Niall Annett proved particularly costly as Exeter scored 14 unanswered points while Warriors were a man down but Annett made amends when he returned from the naughty step with a typically abrasive display.
Scotland lock Jonny Gray burrowed over after Exeter tapped and ran a succession of penalties and then centre Ian Whitten crossed in the corner from a flowing attack.
Joe Simmonds banged over both conversions to open up a 14 points lead in as many minutes but it was a very different story once Warriors were back to 15 men.
Superb close-quarters defence rattled Exeter and patience and precision in attack were rewarded when Perry Humphreys broke free and slipped the ball to Morris who powered over for his first Premiership try.
Weir made an earlier-than-expected appearance after Billy Searle limped off after suffering a nasty laceration to a thigh and he immediately made his presence felt by converting Morris’s try then adding a penalty just before the break after
Exeter collapsed a scrum an then went offside at the subsequent driving lineout.
Exeter stretched away early in the second half when Ollie Devoto went over and Simmonds again added the extras but the rest of the match was dominated by Warriors with Ashley Beck and Nick David regularly troubling their defence and Matt
Kvesic making a thorough nuisance of himself against his former club.
Weir smuggled his way over for a try after 50 minutes when Exeter wing Olly Woodburn spurned the opportunity to dot down a kick-through and concede a five metres scrum. Instead Woodburn kept the ball alive, he lost possession and the alert Weir picked up to score from close range.
Weir’s conversion from the touchline brought up his 450th point since he arrived at Sixways from Edinburgh in the summer of 2018.
The fly-half was narrowly off-target with a 63rd minute penalty attempt which would have put Warriors within another penalty of victory. Exeter managed to hold on for a jittery win but for the third successive season at Sixways, Warriors pushed them all the way.
Warriors | 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Oli Morris (Venter 67), 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Nick David (Cutting 17-18), 10 Billy Searle (Weir 21), 9 Francois Hougaard (Simpson 73), 1 Ethan Waller (Thomas 58), 2 Niall Annett (Cutting 58), 3 Nick Schonert (Palframan 58), 4 Justin Clegg (Bresler 67), 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Ted Hill (C), 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Marco Mama (Lewis 45).
Replacements | 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Francois Venter
9m | Gray try 0-5
10m | J Simmonds con 0-7
14m | Whitten try 0-12
15m | J Simmonds con 0-14
28m | Morris try 5-14
29m | Weir con 7-14
38m | Weir pen 10-14
44m | Devoto try 10-19
45m J Simmonds con 10-21
50m | Weir try 15-21
51m | Weir con 17-21