Gareth Steenson (centre) produced another fine display with the boot for Exeter
Exeter recorded their biggest victory in the Premiership with 27 second-half points and extended Northampton's losing run in the league to six games.
Stephen Myler kicked the visitors to a 9-3 half-time lead but the Chiefs came to life after the break.
Gareth Steenson got two early penalties before converting tries by Tom Hayes, Sireli Naqelevuki and Tom Johnson.
Exeter came close to claiming a bonus point with a fourth try but were denied by a fine Greig Tonks tackle.
Tempers flared among the two packs in the opening exchanges and Saints were ahead early on when Myler landed a 25 metre penalty, only to see Steenson wipe out their advantage minutes later.
Myler added three more points when the Chiefs collapsed a scrum but the two kickers both missed subsequent shots at goal.
Saints weathered a storm of Chiefs possession and territory but turn overs cost the hosts several promising opportunities.
Exeter were also guilty of kicking away possession needlessly and their lack of attention almost cost them a try when Myler intercepted Luke Arscott's pass and raced to within 10 metres of the home side's tryline.
The Saints battered away at the line and came away with their third penalty in the final minute of the half.
After the restart Hadyn Thomas's break set up a promising Chiefs attack which ended with an easy three points for Steenson in front of the posts.
A couple of minutes later the Chiefs stand-off levelled the scores from 40 metres.
By now the hosts were in top gear as Hayes went over in the left corner before Naqelevuki galloped away to score in the same spot just a minute later.
Steenson landed both conversions from the touchline to give his side a commanding 23-9 lead as the game entered its final quarter.
Saints rallied as Shane Geraghty, who came on at full-back, broke from his own 22m to take Saints close.
The Chiefs' defence held up under pressure and they scored again as Johnson reacted first when Bruce Reihana spilled the ball.
The back row grounded the ball under the posts and Steenson duly added the converted.
With 10 minutes left Exeter pushed for the bonus point and looked like they might snatch a late break away try through Matt Jess but Tonks caught the Chiefs winger 20 metres out.
In the final minute Exeter wing Nic Sestaret was yellow-carded.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter:
"Every time we win someone asks me if this was the best or most important victory but, for us, they are all great. We have achieved some notable things this season but the key for us is that this is probably the first time we've actually come from behind.
"Not just to win but to win convincingly because normally we come out of the blocks well and we put the opposition under pressure and we just see that through and that's how we win.
"We've taken every loss on the chin and never cried about it and we'll take what the wins bring as well."
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder: "It is quite clear that there is a lack of confidence and we have never blamed the recent slump in form on the absence of our international players. We think that we have enough quality in the team to do better than we are at the moment.
"We have lost games when the internationals have played during this lean campaign. The concern is that we need to get our players playing better - that as simple as it is."
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