Sam James’ stunning first-half try helped Sale Sharks to a hard-fought 20-13 home victory over Northampton Saints, who have now won just one of their opening three Aviva Premiership Rugby games this term.
Sale won eight of their 11 Aviva Premiership Rugby games at the AJ Bell Stadium last season and once again demonstrated what a force they are at home against last year’s table-toppers.
After Stephen Myler and Danny Cipriani traded penalties, James dotted down for a memorable try to give Sale a 13-6 lead at the break.
Will Addison extended that advantage as he crossed the whitewash after the interval and despite Myler dotting down, the Sharks held on in the face of late Northampton pressure.
The Saints have now failed to win on the road in any competition since February but Sale move into the Aviva Premiership Rugby top half.
Northampton's early possession gave a hint of the power of their driving maul but Sale managed to steal the advantage by winning a Saints line-out and forcing an error on the halfway line.
An error after eight minutes of play gave Saints a line-out in the corner, and the first real chance of the game for points, but the Sharks held their line with Cipriani eventually clearing downfield.
In the 15th minute, the Sharks had a chance to notch the game’s first points after Northampton came in at the side but Cipriani's kick drifted wide of the posts.
A chance of redemption came within a minute however – Cipriani made no mistake second time round and the England fly-half booted another three points in the 24th minute.
Northampton responded with ten minutes left to play in the first half as Myler slotted a penalty of his own to narrow the deficit to 6-3.
Mike Haley's excellent take from a high ball led to Sharks first dash for the line but an interception from Luther Burrell nearly gave Saints a breakaway try until, following Haley's tackle and failure to roll away, Myler drew his team level with a penalty kick.
But it was the hosts who went into the break ahead thanks to one of the tries of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season so far.
After a great pass from Josh Beaumont, Sam James chipped the ball over Myler's head and collected to score in the corner – Cipriani converting to give Sharks a 13-6 lead.
Shortly after the break Addison collected Haley's up-and-under before slipping through the defence to score underneath the posts.
After Cipriani converted, Saints responded swiftly with Jamie Gibson appearing to cross in the corner, only for the TMO to confirm that Chris Cusiter had dragged him into touch.
However, Northampton weren’t to be denied and from their own line-out they worked the ball wide where Myler went over for his team's first try of the match, which he converted, after 54 minutes.
Cipriani had the chance to increase Sale's lead with a penalty in the 68th minute but his effort flew wide and a messy period of play ensued that saw both sides turning the ball over and making handling errors.
Nick MacLeod then missed the opportunity to put the game to bed with three minutes remaining as his penalty hit the post and Sale were almost punished.
As the clock turned red Saints were awarded a penalty and worked the ball deep inside the home 22, only to knock on as they crossed the try-line, having to settle for just a losing bonus point.