Trailing 26-21, replacement hooker Joe Buckle crucially got over from a driving maul deep into injury-time to level the contest against his unfortunate former club Cornish Pirates, who had been reduced to 14 men with Jack Andrew’s yellow card.
Captain Alex Davies, who had earlier missed a 40m penalty from in front that would have given his side the lead, then held his nerve to successfully convert but James Lowes’s side still made their fans sweat.
Playing down the clock in the Cornish half with simple one-off drives, man-of-the-match flanker Josh Bainbridge somehow managed to get isolated and was penalised for not releasing, gifting Pirates one more opportunity.
Fortunately for Carnegie – who had taken until the 75th minute to get in Cornish’s 22 during the second half – they managed to force an error and this time successfully made it to the final whistle.
Carnegie had drawn at Hartpury College the previous week but initially looked set for a comfortable win here surging into a 14-0 lead inside the opening eight minutes.
Winger Louis Brown raced up to win their own kick-off and pressured Cornish only touched the ball for a 22 drop-out before the impressive Ollie Stedman picked up and charged over from the back of a 5m scrum.
Davies converted and did so again after slipping George Watkins into space, scrum-half Will Homer arriving to dart in from 20m out. Indeed, Lowes’s side did not put a foot wrong until Mike Mayhew spilled in a heavy tackle from Matt Bolwell in the 11th minute.
Soon after, though, the hooker saw his line-out throw close to his own line stolen and Cornish eventually profited when Alex Cheesman burrowed over, Laurence May adding the first of his two conversions.
Mayhew endured a difficult afternoon; an attacking line-out was wasted with an over-throw and then he bombed a clear chance with a wretched forward pass into touch just as some lovely handling inside had created space.
He was not the only player guilty of that offence, though, Watkins sending a woeful pass to the same winger Brown to ruin another otherwise fine attack.
After May had added a penalty, Carnegie did get their line-out right for Bainbridge to add their third try, the openside flanker impressively beating two defenders when peeling off the back and sprinting in from 20m, Davies improving.
Nevertheless, a Homer box-kick sailed straight out meaning Cornish gained territory for hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie to edge over, May’s conversion keeping them in touch at the break.
Both Homer and Cornish captain Nicolas de Battista departed with head knocks just before the interval – neither returned – and that caused issues for the hosts especially as regular No 9 Max Green was already missing after starting a three-week ban.
They faced more problems when full-back Chris Elder limped off in the 50th minute, by which point May had reduced the deficit further after the hosts got themselves in a mess trying to return a kick when low on numbers, inevitably penalised for holding-on.
They went ahead for the first time when Carnegie conceded a scrum penalty in the 57th minute and the home side seemed to crumble generally, too, with a series of simple handling mistakes.
Callum Irvine threw a wayward first-phase ball from a line-out then Buckle spilled and they were reliant mainly on No 8 Stedman at times to help clear their lines.
When Davies – who switched from fly-half to No9 after Homer’s injury – missed that penalty in the 71st minute, May slotted three points after another scrum offence soon after.
It looked like being enough for the visitors, who hoped to build on their first win of the season against Rotherham Titans, but after Stedman limped off at the death, James Thraves arrived to make some telling carries and set up position for that final flourish.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder (McColl 50); Watkins, Forsyth, Lucock, Brown; Davies. Homer (Irvine 39); Thomas (Beech 57), M Mayhew (Buckle 54), Millar-Mills (Imiolek 57), Whetton (Wilson 65), Sanderson, Myerscough, Bainbridge, Stedman (Thraves 77).
Cornish Pirates: T May (Cargill 74) ; O’Meara, Laverick, De Battista (Pope 39), Moyle; L May, Day; Walker (Keast 54), Cowan-Dickie (Channon 56), Judge (Andrew 48), Cooper (Freeman 72), Caulfield, Bolwell, Cheesman (Duncan 32), Lawday.
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)