Pat Lam's Bristol Bears snapped their three-game losing run in style and with the announcement of another star signing further signalled the long-term intent to challenge English rugby's established elite.
Bristol started this Premiership season, their second under Lam in the top-flight, with the 43-16 thrashing of Bath. Despite some inconsistency thereafter, they made the early season running alongside Chris Boyd's Northampton Saints.
Three straight losses to Saracens, Wasps and Leicester dented hopes of a top-six finish to qualify for next year's European Champions Cup but a record 34-16 victory over West Country rivals Gloucester last weekend, in which captain Steven Luatua led from the front, could be the catalyst to spark the remainder of Bristol's campaign.
Luatua inspired his men to their first Premiership win since November with 13 tackles, 10 carriers and three turnovers in-front of 18,000 at Ashton Gate.
• Rugby Sevens: All Blacks Sevens claim Hamilton Sevens title to complete New Zealand double
• Rugby: The rule that will be trialled in Super Rugby
• Rugby great reveals horrific fan sledge while backing Ben Stokes after fan incident
• Rugby sevens: Black Ferns Sevens claim first Hamilton title
Nathan Hughes, with 108 metres from 18 carries, also reminded Eddie Jones of his powerful presence at No 8 should the England coach decide he needs alternatives to cover the injured Billy Vunipola in the Six Nations.
"We controlled possession and we controlled territory which takes it toll eventually, we knew the stats show they're extremely strong in the second half this year," Lam said.
"We talked at half-time that we needed to be prepared to lift our efforts to another level and the boys did that. I was frustrated with the last five minutes, we should have come home strong.
"The forward pack, that's the key, to play the game you need to earn the right to go forward, going off front-foot ball. Those are things we weren't doing previously."
Bristol's fourth win of the season lifted them to fifth and with the signing of British and Irish Lions and England prop Kyle Sinckler on a two-year deal from Harlequins next season, Lam's side continue to assemble an increasingly vaunted squad.
Chris Rattue: A three-point plan to fix rugby in New Zealand
The 26-year-old Sinckler, who was knocked unconscious in the third minute of the World Cup final against the Springboks, will join Bristol at the peak of his powers.
"The Bears are an ambitious club on the up and it was great to visit the city and the facilities they have," Sinckler said. "There's a clear plan in place for long-term success and I'm looking forward to contributing."
In other Premiership results Waisake Naholo made a winning return to London Irish as they stunned Boyd's Northampton Saints 20-16 at home.
A second half red card to Northampton lock Apisalome Ratuniyarawa for a high ruck clearance changed the course of this match.
Leading by eight points with 10 minutes remaining, Saints could ultimately not hold on with Irish scoring two late tries.
Their first home loss since April dropped Northampton, who were missing seven test players, to second behind the Exeter Chiefs who suffered a surprise 22-19 home defeat to Sale.
"We have some learning, developing and growing to do as, if one man goes away on international duty, that's great, but someone has to step up and do a job," Boyd said. "It is certainly not a lack of effort, however."
In the wake of their salary cap scandal and news they will be automatically relegated next season, Saracens copped a swift reality check from the previously struggling Harlequins.
Quins scored five-tries-to-two in their 41-14 London derby demolition which could be a sign of what's to come for Saracens, who now only have pride to play for.
Over in the French Top 14, Lyon continues to set the pace after former All Blacks wing Rudi Wolf and Bay of Plenty fullback Toby Arnold collected tries in their 27-12 win against Toulon, who featured Julian Savea and Bryce Heem in their midfield.
Lyon's 11th win from 13 attempts pushes them two points clear of Bordeaux, who fell to a 22-14 away loss to Jerome Kaino's Toulouse.
Jono Gibbes' La Rochelle, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Victor Vito combining, held off Montpellier 35-30 to sit tied for third with Paris giants Racing 92.
Kaino and former All Black George Moala, now tearing up in the Clermont midfield, are the two New Zealaners among the 15 nominees for European player of the year.
The list will be reduced to five in early May following the Champions and Challenge Cup semifinals by a combination of public vote and the verdict of the judges.