Sale Sharks’ hopes of an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final were ended by a 19-9 home defeat to French side Brive.
The 2002 and 2005 tournament winners needed to win and deny Brive a bonus point to progress but were outmuscled in the later stages by the visitors, who march on into the knockout stages for the second season running.
With a place in the last eight on the line it was a predictably tight opening in Stockport with the forwards battling it out for the upper hand during the early exchanges.
Sale fly-half Nick MacLeod slotted an early penalty to settle the nerves at Edgeley Park after Brive were penalised on their own put-in.
Julien Caminati levelled things up for the visitors with a long-range strike of his own, but Sale were back in front just five minutes later after MacLeod's second effort.
Brive failed to convert pressure into points after a concerted spell of territory and were punished further with MacLeod knocking over his third penalty after more indiscipline from Brive at the set-piece.
Caminati grabbed a second penalty for his side though right on the stroke of half-time, kicking Brive back to within three points at the break.
The Brive centre was the first to strike in the second period as he levelled things up after 50 minutes after missing an earlier shot at goal.
Brive's big French pack started to control proceedings, but again Sale's defence held firm and Caminati could not push his side into the lead as he struck the posts with his next attempt.
The visitors' efforts were finally rewarded when the impressive Antoine Claassen barged over from close range which was converted by Caminati. The centre then rounded off the victory with a penalty two minutes from time.