The reality of the situation is that Newcastle need a victory over the Saints - the Heineken Cup semi-finalists - at Kingston Park to secure their Premiership status.
But Wilkinson will not accept simple survival as an achievement for the Falcons.
The minimum requirement has never been enough for a man whose motivation to recover from a succession of 11 different injuries was to return better than ever.
"If survival is the only goal you have in a competition then that will work to your detriment, you have to play to win and have big ambitions," said Wilkinson.
"It's about winning things not just staying in there, so our goals are to win all three games at the end of the season. That is our motivation, believing in how we play, not just doing enough to stay in the competition.
"From a personal point of view the idea of playing again meant nothing to me if I didn't feel I could come back and become better than I have been in the past.
"If I came back and I just felt I was going through the motions then it would be pretty obvious on my face, and to be honest I wouldn't want to play the game.
"But I still have that belief and ambition to always improve and find new levels.
"It's not about surviving, I'm not in this game to hang on to what I've had before.
"It's about what can you achieve, and we have all the talent, support and facilities here at Newcastle to make that happen."
Wilkinson lines up alongside fellow internationals Toby Flood, Jamie Noon, Mathew Tait and Australian Matt Burke in a powerful back division.
Wilkinson, who is still only 27, said: "It makes me feel young again to play in a side with quality guys like Jamie Noon, Mathew Tait, Matt Burke and Toby Flood.
"Taity and Toby have been involved with England recently, and Jamie Noon should have had much more international recognition than he has because he is an outstanding talent and very rarely puts a foot wrong for whoever he plays.
"It's exciting to have guys around you who excite you with the way they play rugby, and that they are on the same page as you.
"They are stepping up, making big decisions and developing very quickly into great players."
Newcastle and Northampton head into the game on the back of wildly contrasting European experiences.
The Falcons lost a tense European Challenge Cup quarter-final to Clermont Auvergne, while Northampton stunned Biarritz in the last eight of the Heineken Cup.
At the top end of the table, Saracens travel to Wasps with both sides in the hunt for a place in the Premiership semi-finals.
Wasps came into the weekend in fifth place, four points behind Saracens and boss Ian McGeechan said: "This is a key game for us.
"Saracens are the form team in the Premiership at the moment. They have taken advantage of the opportunity to build a settled team during the Six Nations period and that has given them continuity.
"They have built impressively on their performances and we are going to have to play at the top of our game to take anything out of the game."