Saracens sank Sale with three home debutants scoring in an emphatic victory. England scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth kicked 13 points against his former club while Deon Carstens and David Strettle scored tries.
All eyes were on Sale loosehead Andrew Sheridan, playing only his second competitive game since October, a period during which the Lions and England prop has undergone surgery on both shoulders. Mark Cueto started in the number 12 jersey, but actually lined up at full-back.
And it was home debuts all round for Saracens new-boys Wigglesworth, Carstens and Kelly Brown, all starters, plus Strettle on the bench.
Having gone unbeaten up to Christmas last season, Saracens lost this campaign's opening Aviva Premiership Rugby game to London Irish at Twickenham, whereas Sale began with a rousing home win over Newcastle.
Sale had an opportunity to take the lead inside the second minute when referee Wayne Barnes handed them a penalty, but Nick Macleod's kick from wide on the left turned outside the near post at the last second.
From that moment, Saracens took a grip on possession that saw tremendous breaks by both Noah Cato and Adam Powell bring the very best from Sale's defence. And when Saracens turned an attacking lineout into a driving maul,
Sale produced a fierce challenge that forced a crucial turnover. Sale, however, were struggling to escape their 22 and Saracens ran a 15th-minute penalty that the visitors halted on their line in a manner that referee Barnes decided was illegal.
This time Alex Goode hoofed the ball into touch and from the lineout, Saracens launched another series of attacks, first left across the face of the defence then back again.
This time Sale went offside and Goode scorned kicking for goal, electing instead for another lineout. Mouritz Botha snatched it out of the clouds, set up the drive and hooker Schalk Brits was driven over between the posts.
Wigglesworth, playing against his former club, kicked the conversion to establish a 7-0 lead after 16 minutes – only for Sale to stun the crowd with a try direct from the re-start. Nick Macleod's kick was collected by Tom Brady on the left. He carved through the defence before passing inside for former Saracens flanker David Seymour to score.
Fly-half Macleod levelled matters with the conversion. And it was Macleod who gave Sale the lead with a penalty after 25 minutes as referee Barnes continued to hammer the slightest infringement.
Wigglesworth was on target again after 27 minutes, firing over a penalty that hauled his side level at 10-10. Cato had the fans on their feet shortly after, kicking long up the left wing then accelerating beyond the defence in pursuit only for the ball to bounce out shortly before reaching the flag.
Sale were penalised yet again for offside in the 33rd minute, but this time Wigglesworth's kick from the right faded outside the far post. But when Macleod was offered a similar opportunity in the 36th minute, only further out, his kick soared between the posts to secure a 13-10 only for Wigglesworth to make it 13-13 on the stroke of half-time with his third kick.
And the England scrum-half had edged his side in front two minutes after the break with a penalty, awarded when Sale went off their feet at a ruck.
Saracens increased their lead within minutes when an irresistible attack up the right comprising six players inter-passing was finished when prop Carstens barged over the line. Wigglesworth added the conversion from a difficult angle.
Sale were now struggling in the contact area, conceding a costly spate of penalties, and this only served to fuel a Saracens side increasingly confident following their productive opening five minutes of the half. But the usual raft of replacements – most notably Saracens lost the dynamic Brits to a knock – deflated the game's momentum, and by the time a couple of stoppages had elapsed, Sale had re-grouped and enjoyed their best attacking period of the half.
Just when the ever-willing Cueto looked likely to pose a threat, Sale again conceded a penalty at the breakdown, but Goode, replacing Wigglesworth as kicker, fired well wide from 35 yards.
Paul Williams kept Sale in the game with a wonderful flying tackle to prevent Strettle from scoring a breakaway try minutes after coming on. The England wing seemed home and dry before the full-back launched himself full-length to haul him down close to the line. But Strettle was not to be denied, taking a pass from Goode to score in the left hand corner.