The sides traded four tries, but it was the stunning match-winner from Montpellier centre Johan Goosen that secured a second Challenge Cup title for the French outfit.
Wing Vincent Rattez had scored the opening five-pointer, before Leicester dotted down either side of the break through Harry Wells and Jasper Wiese.
The Leicester-dominated crowd of 10,000 had something to cheer early on as Montpellier stopped a maul illegally on eight minutes, with Andrew Brace awarding a penalty that George Ford duly dispatched.
That Leicester lead would only last five minutes though, as Anthony Bouthier kicked in behind the line and found the former La Rochelle wing Rattez who somehow managed to keep the ball in play with his feet, before dotting down under extreme pressure.
Scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue slotted over the sideline conversion and then nudged Montpellier further ahead with a successful long-range penalty kick.
The Leicester maul proved dominant throughout proceedings and it led to Alexandre Becognee heading to the sin bin after a string of penalties, before it led to Leicester’s levelling try.
The pace from Gabriel N’gandebe the step and offload from Jan Serfontein and the finish by Johan Goosen pic.twitter.com/yH6spbOGTc
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) May 21, 2021
They initially won penalty advantage within inches of the Montpellier line, before Wells burst past the Montpellier defence and over the whitewash, with Ford converting to leave the score at 10-10 at the break.
Penalties mounted up for Montpellier at the start of the second half, and they would eventually have Guilhem Guirado sent to the sin bin before Leicester again took advantage of the extra man with their second try.
It was semi-final try-scorer Wiese wh0 crashed over in the corner from yet another powerful maul, with Ford slotting over.
Leicester were then penalised in front of their own posts shortly after as they didn’t roll away at the breakdown, allowing Montpellier and Paillaugue to kill some clock a man light and slot over the three-pointer.
On then hour mark, Montpellier dealt what would prove to be the fatal blow.
After a stunning break from Gabriel N’Gandebe and a neat cut inside from Anthony Bouthier, the latter released Johan Goosen to run in what would turn out to be the match-winning try.
Paillaugue’s conversion would clip both posts and come back out to make it a one-point game, but even with Handre Pollard missing a long-range three-pointer, Leicester couldn’t make their scrum and maul dominance count in the final minutes.
That meant Montpellier would cling on for a famous success, winning one final penalty and kicking into touch – claiming the 2021 European Rugby Challenge Cup trophy in the process, five years after winning their first European title.
😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣 pic.twitter.com/ZiUc4IRurv— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) May 21, 2021