Exeter winger David Wheeler scored a superb solo goal on the hour as Paul Tisdale's side beat Torquay 3-1 at Plainmoor.
Wheeler raced away down the left before beating Michael Poke as the keeper tried to close him down to claim the pick of the Grecians' three goals.
It might have been a different story for Torquay, who slip into the bottom two as a result of this defeat, but Karl Hawley had an eighth-minute penalty saved by Artur Krysiak following Liam Sercombe's foul on winger Billy Bodin.
Exeter's 20-year-old striker Tom Nichols opened the scoring with a thumping 25-yard shot on the run six minutes before the interval.
Nichols' right-footed strike, which came against the run of the play, was hit with such ferocity that it beat Poke at his near post.
Polish keeper Krysiak then made a brilliant diving save on the stroke of the interval and again in the 58th minute to twice deny Hawley.
Wheeler's wonder goal increased the lead but Hawley, recently recalled by the Gulls, converted a 74th-minute cross from the right by substitute Elliot Benyon to ensure a frenetic Devon derby finale.
However, experienced Exeter forward Alan Gow beat his marker Anthony O'Connor to coolly slot home his side's third goal five minutes from time.