Northampton Saints overcame a slow start at Franklin’s Gardens as a pair of quickfire tries shortly after the break led them to a bonus-point victory over Sale Sharks.
Saints began the day sixth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, slipping behind Harlequins the previous evening, but preserved their push for the top four.
Only Wasps can boast a better run of league form than Jim Mallinder’s side but that momentum wasn’t evident early on, Bryn Evans crossing over as Sale opened up an 11-point lead.
However, Mike Haywood hit back shortly before the break and the damage was done after it, Ken Pisi and Tom Collins each dotting down in quick succession to turn the game on its head.
And JJ Hanrahan went over late on to wrap up maximum points and ensure Sale would remain eighth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
Danny Cipriani was first to take a pop at the posts after the Saints were caught offside but the visiting fly-half sent his effort wide of the target.
The scoreboard remained untroubled for the opening quarter of an hour, with the teams evenly matched but lacking cutting edge, but Sale struck halfway through the opening 40.
Having been forced to defend their line minutes earlier, Sale found their way into the Northampton 22 and when the ball went wide, Evans bundled over.
Referee JP Doyle called for the TMO, ensuring a nervy wait for Steve Diamond’s side, but the try was eventually awarded but Cipriani couldn’t add the extras from the touchline.
It was third time lucky for Cipriani, who slotted a straightforward penalty after the hosts failed to roll away five minutes later, as ill-discipline continued to trouble Northampton.
They were penalised for not releasing shortly afterwards and this time Tom Arscott bisected the posts, 11-0 to the Sharks with half an hour on the clock.
Harry Mallinder – a late call-up in the centres after Luther Burrell was forced to withdraw – sparked the Saints into life with a sharp break and when the ball was recycled, Evans earned himself a stint in the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.
That didn’t do much to delay the try, though, with Northampton kicking for the corner, Haywood dotting down from the resulting drive and Stephen Myler converting from out wide.
Saints emerged for the second half with a four-point deficit but also a man advantage and they made it count, patient build-up allowing Christian Day to feed Pisi to score.
Myler’s conversion made it 14-11 and in a matter of minutes he slotted another, after Lee Dickson strode clear and produced a perfect offload to a grateful Collins on his shoulder.
Northampton almost struck again, only for the linesman to signal that Day had stepped into touch near the corner, and their frustration was compounded by a yellow card for George Pisi for a trip on Will Addison.
Sale couldn’t capitalise – in fact, only a resolute defence prevented them from going further behind – before Mallinder’s neat grubber agonisingly bounced out of reach for Collins ten minutes from time.
The bonus-point score did arrive at last, however, when Hanrahan danced through the Sharks defence for a superb solo score.