Four penalties from Greig Laidlaw saw Gloucester Rugby snatch a 12-11 win at Sale Sharks to inflict the hosts’ first Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium this season and claim their only victory in Manchester since 2001.
Laidlaw started at No.10 for the first time in three years and the Scotland captain proved to be the difference as his 77th-minute penalty secured the win when he made it four kicks from four on the night.
Two Danny Cipriani penalties and Johnny Leota’s try had seen Sale ahead, and Cipriani could have extended their 11-6 advantage further had he not missed the subsequent conversion with 25 minutes remaining.
The defeat means fifth-placed Sale’s European Champions Cup qualification hopes are no longer in their own hands, with Northampton Saints and Harlequins now in a position to potentially overtake Steve Diamond’s men this weekend.
While Gloucester kept their dreams of qualifying for European rugby’s leading competition alive by moving to within three points of the top six, although Northampton and Quins now have a game in hand.
Gloucester came flying out of the blocks at the AJ Bell Stadium and Laidlaw recorded his first penalty within the opening minute from inside the ten-metre line.
Mark Atkinson had the chance to extend their advantage when he intercepted a Sale pass but he was unable to make the try-line and his kick forward ended up in a line-out for the hosts.
Cipriani and Laidlaw went on to exchange penalties, with the soon-to-be-departing Sale fly-half making it 6-6 on the stroke of half-time after Matt Kvesic was penalised at the breakdown.
The hosts then took the lead for the first time on 54 minutes when Leota bundled over from close range and the TMO confirmed there was no reason the try could not be awarded.
Cipriani missed the conversion though meaning the score was 11-6 going into the final quarter and Laidlaw gave his men hope with 11 minutes remaining when he closed the gap to two points.
And when Sale gave away a needless penalty at the breakdown with three minutes remaining, Laidlaw made them pay with his fourth of the night.
Gloucester had shown resilient defending to get themselves into the position to claim victory and they showed more resilience when Sale attacked in the dying moments but the contest ended when Cipriani knocked on.