Saracens (11) 14
Try: Strettle Pens: Farrell 3
Clermont Auvergne (12) 24
Tries: Fofana, Wepener, Lavea, Paulo Cons: Floch, Radosavljevic
Clermont centre Fofana gives his side the lead after just three minutes
Clermont Auvergne enhanced their chances of qualifying for the last eight of the Heineken Cup with victory win over Saracens at Vicarage Road.
Ti'i Paulo scored a last-gasp try to clinch a bonus point for the French side, who could still claim one of the two highest scoring runner-up berths.
The win on Friday night also guarantees Clermont a place in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Saracens, who finish bottom of Pool Two, had no chance of progressing.
Clermont got off to a perfect start after three minutes when Kevin Senio and Tasesa Lavea combined allowing centre Wesley Fofana to burst through the home defence to score by the posts.
Saracens survived a video decision just four minutes later and reduced Clermont's lead when Owen Farrell kicked three points in the 21st minute.
That score lifted the home crowd as Clermont found themselves on the back foot, and Farrell closed the gap to 7-6 with his second successful kick of the night.
While Clermont's defence was uncompromising, Saracens managed to take the lead with a superb try in the 32nd minute, with a move instigated by hooker Schalk Brits.
Brits did the damage with a strong break before making a well-timed pass to David Strettle, who had raced in off his right wing, and he carved through the remaining cover.
Farrell's conversion hit the woodwork and, a minute later, Clermont replied with a try.
Kini Murimurivalu broke through midfield and passed to Anthony Floch. The full-back was grounded feet from the line by Chris Wyles, but managed to pop up a pass for hooker Willie Wepener to score, although Floch's attempted conversion went wide.
A penalty from Farrell nine minutes into the second period gave Saracens the lead at 14-12, as the home side took the initiative.
But the resurgence was short lived as Lavea scored a converted try in the 63rd minute after a succession of drives were finally rewarded.
Saracens surged back on the offensive but Clermont were resolute in defence, despite surging breaks by Noah Cato and Kelly Brown.
They sealed what could be a crucial bonus point as they won a scrum and Ti'i Paulo was driven over to keep them in the hunt for a quarter-final place.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
"We have a number of injuries at the moment so I was very proud of the performance and particularly the young academy boys who've come through this season.
"The situation with the Heineken Cup is a difficult one because the English and French clubs have to compete very strongly to qualify, whereas the eight or nine in the Magners League go straight through.
"It is not a level playing field, particularly when you include the gap that exists between English and French clubs in terms of squad size and you then compare our salary cap with theirs.
"It's very difficult to compete against a team, for example, with Clermont's resources.
"I'd love to have had a full deck available for some of these Heineken Cup games but it hasn't been possible.
"Last weekend against Leinster we were well beaten by a better team, but in the other four defeats we've had chances and we've simply not been as clinical as our opponents in terms of finishing.
"The 10-point margin in this defeat looks like we lost convincingly, but we were actually the better team for periods but their second try before half-time was a killer blow.
"Overall it's been a huge learning experience for a number of our lads, which in itself is very valuable."
Saracens: C Wyles; D Strettle, B Barritt, N Mordt, N Cato; O Farrell, N de Kock; R Gill, S Brits, C Nieto, H Smith, M Botha, K Brown, J Melck, E Joubert (capt).
Replacements: J Short for Strettle (49), J George for Brits (51), P Du Plessis for Nieto (51), J Burger for Melck (51), R Wigglesworth (for de Kock, 51), J Saunders for Gill (65), A Saull for Brown (77). Not used: L Baldwin.
Clermont Auvergne: A Floch; B Russell, M Joubert, W Fofana, K Murimurivalu; T Lavea, K Senio; L Faure, W Wepener, V Debaty, L Jacquet, J White, J Bardy, A Audebert, E Vermeulen (capt)
Replacements: C Ric for Debaty (49), J Buttin for Floch (58), L Radoslavjevic for Senio (60), T Paulo for Wepener (68), A Rougerie for Joubert (78), A Lapandry for Audebert (78). Not used: T Domingo, T Privat.
Ref: Alan Lewis (Ireland)