Danny Cipriani produced a moment of sublime skill to set up Johnny Leota for a decisive try late on as Sale Sharks edged out Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
With his side trailing 13-11 on 69 minutes, the fly-half chipped ahead inside his own 22, collecting his kick and linking with Mark Jennings to send Leota over before the Sharks withstood late Falcons pressure.
The result made it three consecutive Aviva Premiership Rugby victories for Steve Diamond’s side as they also recorded only their third win in 20 encounters on the Falcons’ home turf to go sixth in the table.
The hosts led 10-8 at the break through Juan Pablo Socino’s early try and the boot of fly-half Rory Clegg, with captain Dan Braid responding for Sale with a neat finish.
Clegg added a further penalty, but his side ultimately had no answer for Cipriani’s late show as the Sharks defence held firm to routinely deny Newcastle anything more than the losing bonus point.
The hosts were dealt a blow before kick-off when prop Oliver Tomaszczyk failed a late fitness test, with Scott Wilson coming into the starting XV.
Dean Richards sought permission to name England international Kieran Brookes on the bench but to no avail and was forced to call up the dual-registered Tynedale player Mark Irving.
Yet Newcastle showed no signs of their preparations being disrupted as they took the lead through Socino’s try after only eight minutes.
A powerful catch and drive inside the Sale 22 set up the Argentine centre to bounce off a tackle and glide past full-back Mike Haley to touch down, with Clegg adding the extras.
Sale looked to respond in kind as they drove into the Falcons 22 and retained possession to win two penalties in quick succession, with fly-half Cipriani kicking to the corner both times.
The visitors remained patient through the phrases before eventually spinning the ball out wide to Braid who dived over in the corner, with Cipriani missing the tough conversion after the TMO confirmed Braid’s score.
With a quarter of the game gone, Socino produced another dazzling break before Haley was judged to have felled the centre with a high tackle and Clegg scored the simple penalty to make it 10-5.
The Sharks signalled their intent by again opting for the corner when the hosts were penalised for going off their feet before a second penalty set up another attacking line out.
Haley then burst through a gap in the Falcons defence before being brought down short of the line as Leota touched down, only for the TMO to rule out the score for a double movement.
The Sharks signalled their intent by repeatedly opting to kick to the corner but Newcastle’s much-vaunted defence held firm, with Cipriani duly settling for a shot at goal that he landed to make it 10-8.
Cipriani then produced a sterling break, forcing Falcons to infringe once more but missed his penalty attempt from long distance as the hosts carried a narrow advantage into the break.
A patchy start to the second period saw both sides struggle to retain possession before Sale lock Andrei Ostrikov was pinged for not rolling away and Clegg notched his third kick at goal to make it 13-8 on 56 minutes.
The visitors redoubled their efforts to win a penalty in the opposition 22 and Cipriani bisected the posts to make it a two-point game once more.
With Newcastle under pressure close to their own line, Sale stole a lineout but replacement Adam Powell read Cipriani’s miss pass to intercept as the Falcons cleared.
Yet the fly-half made amends moments later with an exquisite chip that he collected to offload to Jennings who fed the ball back inside for Leota to run in under the posts.
Cipriani added the extras to hand his side an 18-13 lead and although Newcastle repeatedly secured possession in the Sale 22, the visitors rallied in defence to repel the Falcons.