A first minute opener from Vadaine Oliver and Sam Hoskins’ 80th-minute penalty gave Northampton Town all three points in this Sky Bet League Two encounter.
Manager Matt Taylor reverted back to the side which travelled to Macclesfield Town in City’s previous League Two encounter - but did made one change with Tom Parkes replacing Dean Moxey in central defence.
After just 54 seconds the Grecians, rather unfortunately, found themselves behind as Northampton’s Oliver latched onto a lofted ball over the top of the back three and half-volleyed past Lewis Ward into the top corner.
As City warmed into the game, a fair number of half chances came their way with Matt Jay fashioning a couple of sights on goal and Archie Collins intercepted brilliantly yet couldn’t quite capitalise on a miskick from Cobblers goalkeeper David Cornell.
Brennan Dickenson created an opportunity from left wing-back and drove a flat diagonal ball towards Ryan Bowman who had found a yard on Lloyd Jones, but the striker’s desperate lunge was millimetres away from poking the ball home.
There was some cause for amusement midway through the first half after a strong challenge inside the City half shattered the corner flag into pieces, causing a replacement to be brought on by Town’s groundsman who lapped up the attention in front of the travelling Grecians.
As play resumed, a quick goal kick put City under pressure as Nicky Adams gathered the ball and crossed perfectly to Ryan Watson, forcing Ward to be called upon to make a miraculous last gasp save to ensure City were still in the tie.
With just three minutes of normal time remaining in the first period, Collins whipped a dangerous ball into the box forcing Jordan Turnbull to nearly turn the ball into his own net - fortunately for the Cobblers his glance dribbled past the post and out for a corner.
The Grecians started the second half on the front foot with Randell Williams surging down the right flank and crossing to Bowman who couldn’t make contact on a fierce delivery.
As Northampton’s defence began to drop deeper and deeper, City began to dominate play with Nicky Ajose having an attempt on goal and Nicky Law adding some fresh impetus in midfield.
When the Cobblers did attack they came very close to doubling their lead, but for Pierce Sweeney’s intervention and then minutes later Aaron Martin importantly blocked Hoskins’ volley from the edge of the area.
However, Keith Curle’s side did end up doubling their tally in the 80th minute as Sweeney brought down Callum Morton inside the penalty area and Hoskins dispatched the resulting spot-kick to earn all three points.
Northampton Town: Cornell, Goode, Jones, Turnbull, Hoskins, Adams, Lines, Anderson (McCormack 81’), Watson (Pollock 56’), Morton, Oliver (Harriman 69’). Subs not used: Warburton, Roberts, Arnold, Marshall.
Exeter City: Ward, Sweeney, A Martin, Parkes, Williams, Dickenson (Richardson 75’), Atangana, Collins, Jay (Law 60’), Bowman, Ajose (Fisher 75’). Subs not used: Thompson, L Martin, Moxey, Taylor.
Bookings: Adams (90').