Half-backs Chris Burton and Tobie Botes made it a happy Christmas for Benetton Treviso as they steered them to victory over Aironi Rugby in the first ever Italian derby in the Magners League.
Treviso got one up on their Italian rivals thanks to some assured goal-kicking from Chris Burton, who landed a drop goal, and 12-point hero Tobie Botes.
Scrum half Botes coolly slotted penalties after 13, 40, 61 and 80 minutes to see Franco Smith's men end their run of four straight defeats in the Magners League.
Aironi, who toppled Biarritz Olympique in Europe recently, grabbed the only try of a typically hard-fought contest. Their Italian international scrum half Tito Tebaldi crossed in the 20th minute, added the conversion and then kicked them into a 10-9 early in the second half.
Both Aironi lock Marco Bortolami and Treviso replacement prop Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet spent time in the sin-bin as the game moved towards a thrilling climax.
In the end, Botes bookended the final quarter with two vital penalties and Treviso held on to make it five wins out of ten in their inaugural league season.
The sides will meet again on New Year's Eve, with Aironi looking for revenge on their home patch at Stadio Zaffanella.
For of the first leg of this festive double header, Brendan Williams was recalled at full-back for Treviso, who lined out with an entirely Argentinian-born front row of Augusto Allori, Franco Sbaraglini and Pedro di Santo.
A fully-fit Julien Laharrague start at full-back for visitors Aironi, with former Munster back rower Nick Williams returning at number 8. Bortolami combined with team captain Quintin Geldenhuys in the second row.
This may not have been the best quality game the Magners League has seen this season, but it was compelling right until the finish.
In wet and windy conditions, there was a high number of handling errors in the opening half and both teams took their time to settle. Indeed, nerves seemed to play their part with crucial league points and bragging rights on the line.
Treviso led by the quarter hour mark, Botes splitting the posts after an infringement by Geldenhuys. A counter from Williams was the only attack of note during a cagey opening dominated by the boot.
But the quick-witted Tebaldi capitalised on a mistake from his opposite number to break through for the game's only try, after a solid period of pressure from Aironi. The conversion was added for a 7-3 turnaround.
Botes missed two penalties as Treviso tried to respond, the second from 40 metres out. However, his half-back partner Burton did manage to find the target in the 28th minute, flicking a drop goal over despite the best efforts of Nick Williams.
Treviso used their maul to good effect as the first half came to a close and a late penalty from Botes, rewarding that good work from the pack, gave the hosts a 9-7 advantage at half-time.
Burton failed with two drop goal attempts in the early stages of the second half, and Tebaldi nudged the basement side back in front with a 48th minute penalty, won by industrious flanker Simone Favaro.
Tebaldi failed with another attempt, five minutes later, and as Smith and his Aironi counterpart Rowland Phillips turned to their benches, a dour, tactical battle ensued in front of over 3,000 spectators.
On the hour mark, former Italy captain Bortolami was yellow carded and Botes converted the resulting penalty for a 12-10 lead.
The numbers were evened up when Treviso's Fernandez-Rouyet was sent to the sin-bin, four minutes later, and amid a heavy rain shower, Aironi's Paolo Buso replaced the injured Giulio Toniolatti to make his league debut.
Ball-handling conditions were particularly difficult in the latter stages, during which Treviso were able to establish a territorial dominance. It was enough to create a last-gasp penalty for Botes which copperfastened the result.
Smith's charges had done just enough to warrant the win, with captain and man-of-the-match Antonio Pavanello leading the way.
But Aironi, who will be relishing the rematch, can still draw confidence from earning their first ever away point in the league.