Mark Cueto’s 82nd Aviva Premiership try was not quite enough to prevent Sale Sharks slipping to an 18-16 defeat to Exeter Chiefs.
Six penalties from the boot of Gareth Steenson downed the Sharks and handed Exeter Chiefs a third win on the bounce in the Aviva Premiership.
A scrappy affair went the way of the visitors with the Sharks paying the price for having three men sent to the sin bin in the first half.
After the break the hosts rallied and looked to have secured a bonus point when Danny Cipriani made it 15-9 with five minutes to go, only for Steenson to reply almost immediately.
But a lovely flowing move from left to right saw Cueto go over in the corner and the try was awarded after Wayne Barnes consulted the Television Match Official.
Cipriani nailed the conversion from the touch-line with a minute remaining to set up a tense finish but the Chiefs held on for the win.
Exeter got off the mark first when Steenson converted a simple fifth-minute penalty after the home side brought down a maul.
Two kicks from Cipriani soon turned things in the hosts’ favour following an indiscretion by the visitors in the scrum and an offside.
Sale prop Vadim Cobilas was then sin binned for repeatedly infringing in the ruck and Exeter took advantage with Steenson adding six points against the 14 men as the lead changed hands for a second time.
Sale were then down to 14 men again when Tommy Taylor was also shown a yellow card on 32 minutes for raising his hands, with Steenson maintaining his 100 per cent record from the resulting penalty.
Four minutes later Kirill Kulemin became the third Sharks player to be shown a yellow by referee Barnes for an illegal tackle on Dave Lewis, leaving the Sharks with just 13 men for the remainder of the half as Steenson again nailed the penalty to give the Chiefs a nine-point half-time lead.
Sale weathered the early second-half storm from the Chiefs and, once restored to their full compliment, had an excellent chance to score the first try of the game.
Rob Miller made a superb break through the Exeter defence but when the ball was worked wide to Cueto, he knocked the ball on and the chance was gone.
Sale kept coming however and with six minutes left on the clock, Cipriani opted for the kick at goal when awarded a penalty to at least make sure of the bonus point.
Exeter responded almost immediately however, with Steenson striking his sixth penalty before Cueto struck in the corner but it proved to be too little too late.