Mike Brown was sent-off for stamping on the face of an opponent in an act likely to end his Harlequins career.
England’s most-capped fullback had never been red carded in a record-breaking 351-match career for the Londoners.
But ref Wayne Barnes was left with no option after Brown’s “highly reckless stamp” on the face of Wasps’ Tommy Taylor.
Fourteen-man Quins somehow rallied to overturn a 12-point deficit in the last half hour.
In front of watching England boss Eddie Jones, Marcus Smith scored a Premiership season high 28 points including the last-gasp winning try – after Jones had left.
Quins’ Welsh coach Adam Jones raved: “Marcus can do magic things – I can’t even dream of half the stuff he does. If he was Welsh he’d have 50 caps by now.”
Asked whether Newcastle-bound Brown had played his last Quins game, he vowed: “The club will go balls out to defend him.”
Smith’s excellence was matched on the Wasps side by Dan Robson, the England scrum-half, for whom defeat could not have been less deserved.
Robson was all over this game, making breaks, delivering laser passes, utterly elusive. He scored one try and created two.
Wasps boss Lee Blackett described him as being “on a different level to any number nine I’ve seen recently.”
But the final word belonged to Smith, who had been linked to the Lions and must now, surely, get a meaningful shot with England this summer.
QUINS – Tries: Marchant, Lang, Smith (2), Care, Dombrandt. Cons: Smith 6. Pens: Smith 5.
WASPS – Tries: Bassett (2), Odogwu, Robson, Fekitoa, Young. Cons: Umaga 5. Pens: Umaga 2.
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