Harlequins boss Paul Gustard was forlorn as his side succumbed to a late defeat against Northampton Saints that leaves their top-four hopes in real jeopardy.

Ahsee Tuala had given the visitors the lead early on before a try from Jack Clifford added to four excellent Marcus Smith penalties to give Quins a 19-13 lead going into the last couple of minutes.

But Alex Mitchell’s fine finish in the corner set the tee up for James Grayson to convert the winning points in the last minute - and Gustard lamented his side’s inability to hold on for the win.

“I’m unbelievably disappointed - with 90 seconds left to go of the game, we’re in control of the ball,” he said.

“We made a mistake in the breakdown and that cost us the game - it’s a difficult one to take.

“We came out in the second half and were a good team - we defended well, our set piece was good.

“But that’s what happens when you switch off for a second.”

The result means Quins stay in fourth place, which would qualify them for the semi-finals - but the chasing pack are now close behind, with Bath, Wasps and Saints within touching distance after the weekend.

But the Quins Head of Rugby is still optimistic about his side’s chances of making the postseason.

“Apart from 20 or 30 minutes today, we looked disciplined, we were aggressive in defence but we just didn’t get the second try we needed to put some daylight between us,” he added.

“We’re not on a good run at the moment, and we’ve had a few injuries of late, but we’re getting better and healthier, and we need to find what excites us again.”

Meanwhile, Quins co-captain James Horwill - who announced he will retire come the end of the season - echoed his manager’s frustrations.

He said: “We let it slip and that’s frustrating, particularly at home.

“But our destiny is in our own hands - we’re still in fourth place with three games to go.

“Everyone’s hurting - that’s obvious - but we just need to dust ourselves off for the huge game against Clermont this week.

“Fourth is where we want to be - we’ve shown that when we put in a complete performance, we can beat anyone.”