Indeed, Sale – aided by a Jason Robinson hat-trick – looked capable of stealing Gloucester's immense early thunder when they crept to within two points in injury-time. But a poor pass from Mike Hercus was intercepted by Robert Todd, and the centre duly put the result beyond the visitors by scoring a converted try at the death.
So Todd is the hero of the hour, and he'd best make hay whilst the sun shines – he joins Sale over the summer, and is now unlikely to receive a ticker-tape welcome!
But Todd is not the only 'Cherry and White' hero – the club had a lot to prove following last week's capitulation to Bath, and prove themselves they did.
Paul got the scoreboard ticking over with two early penalties, but Robinson soon span away from three tackles to score his first try of the afternoon.
Charlie Hodgson's conversion put the visitors ahead, but Paul soon regained the lead with his third penalty goal.
The home side then turned the screw, and flanker Andy Hazell was soon over the line for a try after great work by captain Jake Boer, fly-half Duncan McRae and England wing James Simpson-Daniel.
The beautiful approach work seemed to inspire the 'Cherry and Whites', and McRae followed up by delivered a reverse pass to Terry Fanolua who crashed over from close range.
Gloucester, beginning the second half with a 21-7 lead, soon widened the gap even further when a cross-field kick by McRae was collected and dotted down by wing Marcel Garvey.
Paul's conversion and a further penalty goal looked to have sealed victory at 31-7 heading into the final quarter.
But the home side eased off on the gas at the very moment that the Sharks decided to go for broke, and a midfield break from centre Chris Mayor gave Robinson the room to race home for his second.
Paul added two more penalties, before Sale struck with their stunning late trio of tries – all scored within four minutes of play.
First, Robinson found the gap and sent wing Steve Hanley into space to score.
Next, England man Chris Jones galloped over after breaks from Vaughan Going and Andy Titterrell.
Robinson then completed his hat-trick to leave his side within one score of pulling off the steal of the century – but Todd had other ideas.
Sale are not totally without hope, however – should Wasps win the Heineken Cup this weekend, Gloucester will automatically gain access to Europe and will withdraw from the Wildcard final, leaving the Sharks to take their place.
For Gloucester:Tries: Hazell, Fanolua, Garvey, ToddCons: Paul 3Pens: Paul 6
For Sale Sharks:Tries: Robinson 3, Hanley, JonesCons: Hodgson, Hercus 4