A Dwayne Peel double helped Sale Sharks all but guarantee their Aviva Premiership safety with a pulsating 32-9 victory over play-off chasing Gloucester at Salford City Stadium.
Sale chalked up a sturdy lead in bizarre fashion in the opening ten minutes, with Johnny Leota and Peel charging down clearance kicks to dive over.
Full-back Cameron Shepherd’s break-away try put the Sharks in the driving seat at half-time, despite two Freddie Burns penalties.
Late tries from Peel and Mark Cueto made sure of the result as Sale moved above London Irish into tenth position in the table and 13 points clear of bottom side London Welsh, who will be now be relegated if they fail to pick up at least two points on Sunday.
The Sharks got off to an electric start, with Leota charging down an early Gloucester clearance, to collect and finish in the corner, with Nick Macleod missing the extras.
But the away side pinned Sale back minutes later with an expertly-executed Burns penalty from the halfway line.
Gloucester were victims of complacency once more in the 6th minute, with Peel charging down Rob Cook’s clearance to dive over, with Macleod adding the conversion.
England international Burns reduced the deficit in the 14th minute with a spiralling kick over the posts from the left-hand side.
Cueto was five metres short of rolling back the years after a sharp breakaway from the halfway line, but the winger was stopped in his tracks by Tom Savage.
Sale were piling the pressure on the Gloucester backline, and were rewarded with a successful 30th minute Macleod penalty.
Burns attempted to hit back minutes later, but his long-range penalty whistled wide of the right-hand post.
Gloucester nearly ran in their first try with five minutes of the half remaining, but Jonny May was stopped ten metres short by a last-ditch Leota tap-tackle.
But Sale finished the half as they’d started it – with a try-scoring flourish – as Shepherd broke through the last line of defence to score a try which Macleod converted.
The Cherry and Whites came out of the blocks with more attacking endeavour in the second-half, with Burns slotting a 50th-minute penalty to reduce the deficit to 22-9.
Minutes later talismanic outside half Burns attempted to kick his side into double figures, but his ambitious attempt from the halfway line fell just short.
Sale hit Gloucester on the break in the 65th minute, switching play to the left for Leota to power down the flank and dive over, but the TMO adjudged the centre to be just short of the line.
And the Sharks continued to push for their fourth try, with replacement Danny Cipriani dropping the ball in the tackle, just short of diving under the posts.
Sale made sure of their advantage in the 75th minute, with Peel’s breakaway try from the edge of the scrum, but Cipriani missed the conversion.
All-time Aviva Premiership top try-scorer Cueto then put the icing on the cake with score down the left flank after a delightful chip over the top from Cipriani, although the fly-half could not add the extras.
Gloucester missed the chance to move into the play-offs as Sale finished in the ascendancy to record their third consecutive win at Salford City Stadium, confirming Saracens’ position in the top four in the process.