Newcastle (6) 32
Tries: Buist, Phillips Cons: Wilkinson 2 Pens: Wilkinson 5 Drop-goals: Wilkinson
Northampton (12) 22
Try: Lamont Con: Reihana Pens: Reihana 4, Spencer
Wilkinson's last-minute drop-goal denied Saints a losing bonus point
Jonny Wilkinson kicked 22 points in his first game for six months as Newcastle claimed their first Premiership win of the season.
Wilkinson landed two early penalties but Bruce Reihana and Carlos Spencer gave Saints a 12-6 half-time lead.
Andy Buist's converted try helped Newcastle take a 16-15 lead.
Phillips' converted try saw the Falcons pull clear and although Sean Lamont scored, two penalties and a drop-goal from Wilkinson steered Newcastle home.
Northampton started the better of the two sides and a poor Wilkinson up-and-under gave Saints captain Reihana an early chance to open the scoring, but his penalty attempt fell short of the uprights.
Wilkinson, playing for the first time since a shoulder operation, soon kicked two penalties, either side of a three-pointer apiece from Reihana and Spencer, to make it 6-6 midway though the first half.
The Falcons were kicking away what little possession they had and Northampton, despite missing with two penalty attempts, succeeded with two more to lead 12-6 at half-time.
The Falcons hit back on the resumption as they strung together their best passage of play so far.
A good surge by centre Jamie Noon put the hosts on the front foot and when the ball was moved right an inside ball from Alex Tait put second row Buist over in the corner.
Wilkinson, who had a 100% sucess rate, kicked the testing touchline conversion to give Newcastle a 13-12 lead before adding a penalty.
Reihana's fourth penalty cut the gap to a point but quick hands from Wilkinson, who was to add another superb conversion, sent wing Phillips over in the corner.
Saints hit back from the restart as Lamont scythed through for a converted try but Reihana then missed another penalty chance when Phillips was sin-binned.
It was the visitors' last chance and Wilkinson made sure of victory as he added two more penalties and a long-range drop-goal to send Saints home empty handed.
Newcastle fly-half Jonny Wilkinson:
"It was great to get stuck in - it's a great feeling and it's what competing is all about.
"I feel pretty good, just a few bumps and bruises and for me that is quite a thing to be able to say these days."
Newcastle director of rugby Steve Bates:
"Jonny was outstanding. The drop-goal suggests he is back to top form. He played the game really cleverly, taking people on, varying his kicking game and causing them real problems.
"He hit a few people very hard, too, so there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the shoulder."
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder:
"You know when Jonny is on the field he is going to make any mistakes pay and he certainly did that.
"We had a chance to win today but we didn't deserve it. In the first half we put the ball in behind them and put pressure on them, which we had talked about, but we simply made too many errors in the second half.
"We're very disappointed and we need to improve before we face Wasps next week."
Newcastle: Tait; Phillips, Noon, Davey, Rudd; Wilkinson, Grindal; McDonnell, Long, Hayman, Sorenson, Buist, Balding, Williamson, P Dowson.
Replacements: Charlton for Grindal (70), Ward for McDonnell (52), Thompson for Long (70), Perry for Buist (49), Swinson for Balding (61).
Not Used: Jones, Clegg.
Sin Bin: Phillips (65).
Northampton: Reihana; Ashton, Clarke, Downey, Lamont; Spencer, Dickson; Tonga'uiha, Hartley, Murray, Fernandez Lobbe, Day, Best, S Gray, Wilson.
Replacements: Foden for Clarke (53), Smith for Tonga'uiha (59).
Not Used: Shields, Stewart, Rae, Hopley, Myler.
Sin Bin: Murray (52).
Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).