Exeter boss Paul Tisdale praised his young side for "weathering an early storm" to win the League Two clash 3-1 at Torquay.
Grecians keeper Artur Krysiak saved Karl Hawley's eighth-minute penalty before 20-year-old Exeter striker Tom Nichols drilled home a 25-yard shot on the run, against the run of play.
Winger David Wheeler made it 2-0 following a defence-splitting solo run on the hour before Hawley converted Elliot Benyon's cross to make it 2-1 in the 74th minute.
Alan Gow put the result beyond doubt in the 85th minute, though, as he broke through the home defence before beating keeper Michael Poke with a clinical strike.
Tisdale said: "We were made to work for it and we had to weather an early storm. I thought we were too open in the first quarter of the match and we adjusted one or two things at half-time to stop their flow and it went our way.
"After half-time the game evened out. We dealt with the barrage a bit more and then we started to impose ourselves. It was a really good game of football.
"I thought at 2-0 we were more likely to score a third but they got one back and the game opened up. We obviously then got the third which saw us home.
"We earned our win and the players will have learned a good experience of how to stay in games when you are getting battered like we were in the first half an hour. We will really benefit from today. We needed the win and this is a big boost for us. It is keeping us going in the right direction.
"Tom (Nichols) couldn't find the key last year but it looks like the penny has dropped. He is another one coming through. He is in that kind of form and he is playing with real confidence. You just knew he was going to hit it and what a strike."