Double European champions Leicester came within two minutes of being dumped out of the Heineken Cup by a rampant Biarritz side at Welford Road, in a blistering match that delivered the kind of top class rugby that can only come from Europe’s top rugby touurnament.

The Tigers needed at least a bonus point to stay in contention in Pool 1, and it took an 83rd-minute try to scrum-half Harry Ellis to clinch it against an inspired French side who move to the top of Pool 1 after a thrilling four-point Cup victory.

Lock Jerome Thion silenced the Welford Road crowd with a pushover try in the opening minutes and scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili’s conversion gave his side a 7-0 lead in barely as many minutes.

The little scrum-half added a penalty goal and French centre Damian Traille, playing at fly-half against the Tigers, kicked a dropped goal to extend his side’s lead to 13-0.

The Tigers looked rattled and the shell-shocked favourites went further behind when Biarritz winger Jimmy Marlu jinked his way over the try-line in the corner.

Leicester fought back into enemy territory, but couldn’t trouble the scorers and went into the halftime break trailing 18-0.

The Tigers opened the second-half scoring with an Andy Goode penalty goal, and winger Ollie Smith went close to a try before losing the ball in a strong Marlu tackle just short of the line.

Their comeback suffered a blow when Ellis was yellow-carded for a petulant elbow on opposite number Yachvili, who got his revenge by converting the penalty.

The Tigers camped on the Biarritz try-line but the Frenchmen were magnificent in defence. Replacement winger Alex Tuilagi eventually dotted down in the corner, and Ellis’ last-minute effort gave his side the crucial bonus point.