The visitors set their stall out from the kick-off, their pack muscling to the Leeds line following a line-out 25 yards out. It was hooker Andy Titterell who came up with the ball, but the credit goes to the forward unit.
It was the start of pack domination in line-out and scrums that always had Leeds on the back foot, and the few times they did manage to work their way into the Sale half they were pinned back by some good kicking.
Leeds looked dangerous only when they risked opening out in their backs – and they squandered a great opportunity when centre Chris Bell kicked instead of passing to the two-man overlap.
New winger Tom Biggs then had the home fans on their feet with a smart inside break and kick ahead – but he was denied by some smart defending.
Most of the time, however, it was Sale – led by the outstanding Sebastien Chabal – who were on top. He was at the heart of everything and came close to grabbing a second try when Titterell won the ball against the head 30 yards out, but his offload was knocked on.
Leeds sent on Tim Stimpson for the second half for Biggs, who had picked up a knock, while Bryan Redpath took over at scrum-half for Sale.
Stimpson's kicking meant Leeds were able to play more of the game in Sale's half, and they drew level in the 54th minute with a well-worked try.
Bell made the initial break – and when Diego Albanese's dance to the line was halted two yards short, the centre followed up and touched down.
That just marked the start of intense Sale pressure which saw Leeds produce some brave defence – including massive tackles by Stimpson and Alan Dickens, who twice hauled down Jason Robinson in full flight.
But inevitably the visitors put more points on the board, with Hodgson dropping the decisive goal in the 70th minute to edge his side back in front.
For Leeds Tykes:Try: BellPens: Ross 2
For Sale Sharks:Try: TitterellPens: Hodgson 2DG: Hodgson