A try six minutes from time for Jonny May, and with it a red card for the Perpignan centre Lifeimi Mafi, just about rescued Gloucester's Heineken Cup campaign from falling at the feet of James Hook.
Twenty-two points came from Hook, including a try in 59 seconds and a faultless kicking display that made a nonsense of the conditions. The former Osprey, who has not started a game for Wales since the 2011 World Cup but has just signed a contact to stay at Perpignan for another four years, was the difference between two sides who might struggle to get out of even a modest group, or at least for 74 minutes.
Trailing 9-3 after a tepid first half, Gloucester's fortunes changed when Perpignan lost their scrum-half to the sin-bin two minutes into the second. The stand-in No9, Sofiane Guitoune, a wing by trade, failed to get the put-in straight and, from the penalty, Gloucester's All Black No9, Jimmy Cowan, caught most of Perpignan looking the other way.
The lead was short-lived, Hook landing his second and third penalties before a towering drop kick from 45 metres seemed to have settled things until May, earlier denied a try by the video referee who spotted a forward pass from Mike Tindall, slid through the Perpignan defence and into the left corner. When Leighton Hodges asked the video referee for help, Kingsholm feared the worst, but the referee had spotted Mafi dumping Ryan Mills on his head.
Billy Twelvetrees, with 19 points in the game, completed the evening with his fifth penalty and Gloucester go to Munster next Saturday. Nigel Davies already, it seems, intent on fielding an entirely different starting XV.
After a year in the Amlin wilderness, Davies sent out a side with a beefed-up front five from the one mauled by Exeter, but missing Ben , one of the handful of Gloucester players with a hope of a mention from Stuart Lancaster when he names his autumn squad on Wednesday.
The No 8 will have to hope he did enough in Argentina in the summer to keep the shirt, rather than be judged on Gloucester's tepid start to the season
Morgan. Another England candidate, fly-half Freddie Burns, pulled out just before kick-off, meaning his Test partner Twelvetrees moved inside, leaving a centre partnership of Tindall and Mills, making his first start of the season.
If the omens looked bad, things looked a lot worse within a minute when Hook squeezed home the first try and then added the touchline conversion. The Welsh fly-half turned full-back with Perpignan got on the end of a chip from Camille Lopez, the 24-year-old who has taken the No 10 shirt from him, and a palmed pass from Wandile Mjekevu.
Lopez is keeping François Trinh-Duc out of the French squad for the autumn Tests and it is easy to see what attracts the national coach, Philippe Saint-André. The fly-half's tactical kicking set up two more early attacks and he also shows decent understanding with the big boys like the brothers Taofifénua, Sebastien and Romain, both of whom made decent dents before Twelvetrees calmed some of Gloucester nerves.
A couple of penalties for the centre turned fly-halfTwelvetrees pegged the lead back to one point, offset by one from Hook when Rob Cook ran into a brick wall in midfield. But after the first incisive 59 seconds, the half gradually lost its way to a series of unforced errors before Gloucester finally got up a decent head of steam two minutes from the interval.
Twice May got close, the second time when the wing ignored his overlapping hooker Huia Edmonds on the outside before Cowan looked to have wriggled over. Hodges asked for a review and Kingsholm was convinced even if the video ref was not.
Gloucester had to settle for a penalty, cutting the half-time lead to four points – Hook 13, Twelvetrees nine.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk