Saracens’ away form in Aviva Premiership Rugby let them down once again as they were downed 14-10 at Sale Sharks, the hosts surging into fourth in the table in the process.
Both Sam Tuitupou and Jonathan Mills crossed the whitewash in the first-half, with Alex Goode’s sole penalty the visitors’ only response as both Jacques Burger and Richard Wigglesworth were sent to the sin-bin.
Richard Barrington’s late try at least earned an off-colour Saracens a losing bonus point, but Mark McCall’s men remain with just one win on the road in Aviva Premiership Rugby since September.
Goode missed the chance to open the scoring with six minutes on the clock when Sale were pinged at the maul, before the home side took the initiative.
Winger Mark Cueto was denied only by a superb last-ditch tackle from Burger, after Mike Haley had made the half break, before halfback Chris Cusiter again broke through only to be hauled down by opposite number Wigglesworth.
And after a scoreless opening quarter of an hour, it was Saracens who took the lead when Johnny Leota was penalised for going into a ruck off his feet, and Goode this time made no mistake with a 17th minute kick from 40 metres out.
But the hosts hit back almost immediately, Cipriani first kicking to the corner and then offloading to Tuitupou from the line-out, the big centre crashing over for the game’s opening try. Cipriani added the extras to make it 7-5.
The Sharks looked set to repeat the score just four minutes later when a high tackle from Jamie George on Haley allowed Cipriani to once again kick for the corner, but Maro Itoje expertly stole the lineout to allow Goode to clear.
Sarries were under pressure and things went from bad to worse when Burger saw yellow on 29 minutes for no use of the arms in the tackle.
But the wolfpack defence stood firm, and despite Sale kicking into the corner yet again from the penalty Saracens earned themselves a 5-metre scrum and cleared.
The visitors shot themselves in the foot again however on the stroke of half-time when Wigglesworth became the second man to be sent to the sin-bin, the TMO ruling his tackle on Cuisiter to be too high.
And Sale took full advantage, kicking to the corner to allow Mills to touch down at the back of the driving maul, Cipriani sweeping the conversion over to take the scoreline to 14-3 at half-time.
No-one would have ruled out Saracens at the interval, particularly given their recent record against Sale with the hosts having won just one of the last 12 meetings between the sides.
But Sale looked nothing like the side who went down 40-19 at Allianz Park in September, and instead were showing why they had lost only one of their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Addison started the second-half the way Sale ended the first with a superb break, before his low offload to Cusiter was knocked-on.
Goode missed again from the tee on 48 minutes, his long-range kick sailing left when the Sharks were penalised at the line-out.
The play then became more broken with both sides electing to kick for territory, but Saracens began to build possession and phases going into the final quarter of the game.
But with desperation creeping in, Chris Wyles’ wild pass into touch on 66 minutes epitomised Saracens form on the day.
Sarries looked as though they had finally broken through on 70 minutes, but Nick Tompkins on the overlap knocked-on into touch with the line at his mercy.
With Cueto yellow carded late for a deliberate knock-on, Saracens finally touched down on 79 minutes, Richard Barrington earning his side a losing bonus point with the TMO awarding the try after a quick tap-and-go.
But it was too little too late for the visitors who slipped to their second loss in three Aviva Premiership Rugby games when Cipriani booted the restart into touch to end the contest.