Glasgow Warriors’ hopes of progressing in the Heineken Champions Cup are unlikely, though not mathematically over, but Dave Rennie’s side proved a point on an afternoon of thrilling rugby at Scotstoun.
It was four tries a piece and three points shared between the sides, which was enough to secure Pool 2 for the English league leaders Exeter, who are tipped by many to lift the trophy in Marseille at the end of the season.
The build-up to the match surrounded two storylines - the prospect of Glasgow lock Jonny Gray facing the club he will join in the summer and the return to Scotstoun of star full-back Stuart Hogg as part of a daunting opposition outfit.
It was a fairly quiet afternoon for both but, in true Hogg style, he had the final word in the proceedings as an audacious penalty attempt from 60 metres out to snatch the win came agonisingly close, bouncing off the crossbar with time up on the clock.
The worst of the wet weather had cleared by kick-off time and a hugely entertaining first half of top-class European rugby developed.
After a tight 13-7 win over Sale Sharks and then an attritional 12-7 loss to La Rochelle in terrible weather, this was more the kind of entertainment the packed Scotstoun crowd has become accustomed to on such occasions.
The stakes could not be clearer ahead of the match, with Glasgow knowing that anything less than a big and famous win over the English league leaders would mean their hopes of a third quarter-final in the continent’s elite competition would be over.
The Warriors got off to the perfect start with a try within the first minute as right-wing Tommy Seymour collected his own deft chip to dot down and Adam Hastings made the first of many fine kicks to the sticks.
Exeter hit back with a Joe Simmonds penalty but the resurgent Scotland centre Huw Jones crossed after a fine pass from centre partner Sam Johnson to put Glasgow in a promising early position, Hastings once again converting.
Exeter’s Aussie scrum-half Nic White ran in an interception try from deep, converted Simmonds, to tighten things up.
A Hastings penalty gave Glasgow some breathing room but not for long as the first of two yellow cards which would subdue the Warriors’ hopes of victory were dished out by French referee Romain Poite as co-captain Callum Gibbins was adjudged to have made an illegal shoulder-charge clearout at a ruck.
The ten minutes devoid of the Kiwi openside proved pivotal as Exeter bagged two converted tries. Exeter No 8 Matt Kvesic barged over from close-range as the chiefs ramped up the pressure on the Warriors pack. The line was breached again as Jacques Vermeulen got on the scoresheet, Simmonds converting both.
Glasgow were not to be outdone and closed off an excellent 40 minutes of rugby as a great break and slip pass from Hastings put scrum-half George Horne over and the half finished at 24-24.
It was tighter after the interval but no less compelling as Glasgow sought to strike the early blow. Jones suffered misfortune as the bounce of the 4G surface evaded his grasp with the line begging after a hack through.
Hooker Fraser Brown was the next Glasgow man to face the sin-bin following repeated infringements by the home pack and Kvesic bundled over again from short distance as the pressure told.
Glasgow were bowed but not broken and showed great collective spirit to respond, as substitute Fijian wing Niko Matawalu added his force to a maul and was the man to touch down, with Hastings’ superb touchline conversion making it all square.
Glasgow thought they may have won it with a thrilling score finished by Johnson but it was ruled out for a fractionally forward pass by Hastings in the lead up.
A frustrating yet enthralling draw it was to be then but not before Hogg attempted to make it a dream return to his old stamping ground. With a penalty awarded 60 metres out, and nothing to lose, the Scotland full-back put his hand up and gave it a crack. Some crack it was too but just not quite enough as it came off the bar.
The game was still live but a Glasgow knock-on brought a breathless 80 minutes to a close.
SCORERS: Glasgow: Tries: Seymour, Jones, Horne, Matawalu; Cons: Hastings (4) Pen: Hastings
Exeter Chiefs: Tries: White, Kvesic (2), Vermeulen Cons: Simmonds (4) Pens: Simmonds
Glasgow Warriors: Bryce, Seymour, Jones, Johnson, Steyn, Hastings, G Horne; Kebble, Brown, Z Fagerson, Cummings, Gray, Wilson, Gibbins, M Fagerson. Subs: Turner, Seiuli Nicol, Harley, Fusaro, Price, P Horne, Matawalu.
Exeter: Hogg, Nowell, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn, Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Pieretto, Kirsten, Lonsdale, Ewers, Vermeulen, Kvesic. Subs: Taione, Moon, Street, Witty, Armand, Maunder, Steenson, Hill.
Referee: R Poite (Fra)