Sale bounced back from their opening-day Aviva Premiership defeat at Worcester to ignite their campaign with a hard-fought win and condemn London Irish to a second consecutive loss.
The Sharks edged an absorbing encounter which saw them claim two first-half tries from Henry Thomas and James Gaskell before scrum-half Dwayne Peel went over for a decisive second-half score.
The Exiles, who touched down in the first half through David Paice and Jonathan Joseph, at least went home with a losing bonus point thanks to the expert kicking of full-back Tom Homer, who kicked seven goals from as many attempts.
Sale began purposefully and led inside the the fourth minute when Peel's quick pass found Rob Miller advancing forward at pace from full-back inside the left channel.
The former Newcastle player showed neat footwork and impressive pace to outstrip a clutch of Irish defenders before finding Thomas in support with a clever inside pass.
Thomas burst clear to cross the line and fly-half Nick MacLeod added the extras with a conversion that went over via an upright.
Irish came back strongly and a penalty from Homer got them off the mark in the 13th minute.
They began to enjoy a period of sustained pressure which culminated in Paice burrowing his way over the line from a line-out in the 21st minute.
Homer added the extras but Sale fashioned an immediate response when Gaskell showed a clean pair of heels to burst clear from the edge of the Irish 22-metre line. He sprinted inside the left channel and grounded just wide of the posts, giving MacLeod a simple conversion to put the hosts 14-10 in front.
Irish refused to lie down, however, and another penalty from Homer soon cut Sale's lead to a solitary point.
MacLeod then added a penalty to put Sale 17-13 ahead but Irish came back strongly again to claim their second try and forge ahead once more.
Fly-half Dan Bowden made a fine run which took him past several home defenders and then sent Joseph clear down the left flank.
Joseph still had plenty to do but he had too much pace for the Sale defence and raced over in the left corner for a try which Homer converted before MacLeod kicked a penalty right on the stroke of half-time to leave the scores finely poised at 23-20 in Irish's favour.
MacLeod missed his first attempt at goal in the 43rd minute when he sent a penalty wide and the visitors should have extended their lead moments later when Marland Yarde failed to ground the ball after a fine sweeping move.
Homer kicked his sixth goal from as many attempts soon after to stretch Irish's lead but the game's pivotal moment came in the 57th minute when Peel collected possession inside the Irish 22 and raced clear for a try which MacLeod converted.
Irish hit back through another penalty from Homer late on but they were forced to settle for a losing bonus point after Sale held on in the closing stages.