Varndell's classy finish set up Leicester's famous win
Leicester: (11) 21
Tries: Rabeni, Varndell
Pen: Goode 3
Stade Francais: (11) 20
Pens: Skrela 4
Leicester kept their hopes of a treble alive with a thrilling win over Stade Francais in a classic Heineken Cup quarter-final at Welford Road.
Seru Rabeni's early try gave the Tigers the perfect start, but a score from the superb Juan Martin Hernandez helped the teams go into the break level at 11-11.
David Skrela and Andy Goode exchanged penalties as the tension mounted, before two kicks put Stade 20-14 up.
But Tom Varndell scored under the posts on 72 minutes, and Leicester held on.
The Tigers will meet Llanelli Scarlets in the semi-finals on 21 April at the Walkers Stadium, where they have been knocked out of the tournament in each of the last two years.
Leicester made a sparkling start, with a thumping tackle from Alesana Tuilagi knocking the stuffing out of Stephane Glas and drawing a huge response from the home fans.
Tuilagi's next intervention was to make a powerful burst right through the heart of Stade's midfield after a delicate inside ball from Lewis Moody.
Rabeni's early try gave Leicester the dream start
Christophe Dominci made the tap-tackle, but moments later Leicester worked the ball right and a pass from Geordan Murphy allowed Rabeni a simple score.
Stade offered an immediate response, with some silky running from Hernandez and Glas creating the pressure which prompted Moody to give away a penalty which Skrela landed.
Hernandez was lucky to get away with having his clearance charged down by Andy Goode, with the Leicester fly-half lacking the pace to take advantage.
But Hernandez was the hero for Stade on 20 minutes as he stepped inside Dan Hipkiss's tackle before dancing around Daryl Gibson, Murphy and Tuilagi to score for an 8-5 lead.
Goode kicked Leicester level after Brian Liebenberg was penalised for not rolling away at the tackle.
And referee Alan Lewis lost patience soon after as he sent Remy Martin to the sin-bin for another infringement, even though the Stade open-side did his best to avoid punishment by getting lengthy treatment for a head injury.
Goode scored the resulting penalty off the post, but Skrela levelled the scores with another penalty after a brain-dead stamp by Julian White in front of the referee saw the original decision reversed against Leicester.
In the dying moments of the half, Goode had the chance to give Leicester the lead but his penalty bounced off the post to safety and the evenly matched teams went into the break with nothing to separate them.
The first points of the second half came from Skrela's boot after the Stade forwards turned the tables on Leicester by winning a penalty at the scrum. Goode hit back with a penalty of his own and Leicester then put their foot down hard on the throttle.
Hernandez produced a brilliant tackle on Tuilagi to keep Stade in the match
Hernandez produced one of the best tackles Welford Road has ever seen with a brilliant last-ditch effort to bounce the fearsome Tuilagi into touch at the corner flag.
The Tigers then forced a series of 5m scrums, but a superb defensive effort from the French team held them at bay and moments later, it was Stade taking the lead with a Skrela penalty.
Hernandez launched a huge kick and Dan Hipkiss conceded the penalty after getting isolated in contact.
Skrela stroked over a drop-goal after Harry Ellis's box-kick went awry and the match looked to be going Stade's way.
But with eight minutes left, Hipkiss made a half-break and Varndell was on hand to scorch through under the posts.
Goode kicked the conversion for a one-point lead, but Leicester's job was far from done.
It was all hands to the pump as they repelled a series of Stade attacks with outstanding defence, although they were relieved to see three drop-goal attempts miss the target.
Leicester: Geordan Murphy; Seru Rabeni, Dan Hipkiss, Daryl Gibson, Alesana Tuilagi; Andy Goode, Harry Ellis; Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter, Julian White, Louis Deacon, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Shane Jennings, Martin Corry
Replacements: Gavin Hickie, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leo Cullen, Brett Deacon, Frank Murphy, Ian Humphreys, Tom Varndell.
Stade Francais: Juan Martin Hernandez; Julien Arias, Stéphane Glas, Brian Liebenberg, Christophe Dominici; David Skrela, Agustin Pichot; Rodrigo Roncero, Benjamin Kayser, Pieter de Villiers, Boela du Plooy, Mike James, Pierre Rabadan, Rémy Martin, Sergio Parisse
Replacements: Mathieu Blin, Juan Gomez, Arnaud Marchois, Antoine Burban, Jérôme Fillol, Lionel Beauxis, Mirco Bergamasco.