Sale Sharks’ director of rugby Steve Diamond believed his team showed naivety in the closing stages as they let victory slip through their grasp against Leicester Tigers.
Four tries in front of a record crowd at the AJ Bell Stadium looked enough for the in-form Sharks to seal a fifth successive win.
But Leicester piled on the pressure in the closing stages after Miles Addison was sent to the sin bin and Julian Salvi crossed with two minutes remaining to snatch a 32-30 victory.
Diamond said: “It was a good game all the way through. It was nip and tuck and they’ve shown a bit more experience than us in the last ten minutes and we were slightly ill-disciplined in the last 15 minutes and let them get a sniff back in.
“They’re a good side as we know and they’re used to winning games like that and they did it.
“I don’t know if I was confident about seeing it out, but at 30-15 you have to carry on playing in that scenario and we probably closed up a little bit which gave them the opportunities. They thoroughly deserved the win.
“The crowds are irrelevant to me at this moment in time, but we got two points out of a game which we probably would like to have and should have won, that’s the consolation we’ve got.
“I’ve got no complaints with the Miles Addison sin bin, the referee was outstanding.”
Scrum-half Chris Cusiter gave Sale a fourth-minute lead, but Seremaia Bai soon went over in the corner to level.
And, after Danny Cipriani’s successful penalty moved Sale back into the lead, Mathew Tait’s converted try gave the Tigers an unexpected lead for the first time.
After Addison raced over for a converted try Freddie Burns’ levelled with a penalty. But Cipriani was soon on the mark again and converted Nathan Hines’ try to establish a ten-point lead at half-time.
Sale extended their lead just after the restart through Sam Tuitupou, but midway through the second half Miles Benjamin struck as momentum shifted back in Leicester’s favour.
Replacement Owen Williams kicked over a penalty in front of the posts to reduce Sale’s lead to five points and with just over five minutes remaining Addison was shown a yellow card, before Salvi went over and Williams converted to give Tigers a two point win.
Leicester Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill said: “I was disappointed in how we started the game, disappointed in how we defended, but then we got ourselves back in the game.
“At half-time I knew we had the ability to get back into the game because it was a ten-point game, but I wasn’t expecting us to concede so easily in the second half as well.
“Our ability to get ourselves into a deep hole was remarkable, but credit to the players, they played themselves out of the hole and got themselves into a position to win the game.
“Credit to Sale they played incredibly well and took advantage of our limpness in defence. I don’t know who else they’ve lost to here in the Premiership but not many come here and win.
“If we’d have lost we’d have been in the bottom four or five and that hurts you, but we are still in that cluster of five or six teams that are pushing for the top four.”
Sale: Haley; Addison, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Cusiter (Cliff 61); Lewis-Roberts (Harrison 59), Jones, Cobilas, Mills (Ostrikov 59), Hines, Lund, Seymour, Braid
Not used: Mamukashvili, de Marchi, Easter, Ford, Jennings
Leicester: Bell (Thompstone 51); Tait, Goneva, Bai, Benjamin; Burns (Williams 59), B. Youngs (Harrison 66); Rizzo (Ayerza 50), Ghiraldini (T. Youngs 50), Cole (Balmain 50), De Chaves, Parling (Peterson 76), Gibson, Salvi, Crane (Barbieri 57)
Tries: Cusiter, Addison, Hines, Tuitupou
Conversions: Cipriani 2
Penalties: Cipriani 2
Tries: Bai, Tait, Benjamin, Salvi
Conversions: Burns 2, Williams
Penalties: Burns, Williams
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth