A lot of credit must go to the spirited Harlequins outfit, who began the match under the leadership of former Springbok skipper André Vos, but the Sharks displayed a touch of class in winning a match they so easily could, or perhaps, should, have lost.
At one stage in the second period the visitors found themselves 19-3 down – after Quins fullback Nathan Williams had scored his second try of the night after yet another Sharks turnover – but a Stefan Terblanché try three minutes later gave the South Africans the sniff they so desperately needed.
Terblanché's try came from a strong burst and hand-off from powerhouse Sharks centre André Snyman, but it was the first tackle the bulky three-quarter managed to break after trying to bash his way around during the first 57 minutes of the match.
Snyman and his midfield partner Butch James got some useful front-foot ball from flyhalf Brent Russell in the first stanza, but they kept on cutting inside and getting caught by the eager Quins defence way before the advantage line.
Russell was substituted in the 53rd minute, with fit-again Trevor Halstead moving into the inside centre position and James shifting to flyhalf. The self-same James, who missed the conversion of Terblanché's score, burst through some half-hearted defence four minutes into the final quarter to cut the scoreline to 19-13, but with another missed conversion his side was still one goal adrift.
Quins surged back into the Sharks' territory from the re-start, but the SA side absorbed the pressure and when they finally broke out of their 22, Harlequins lock Karl Rudzki gave them another boost by earning a yellow card.
Rudzki, who was shown a yellow card in the corresponding fixture at the Stoop last year, could only watch as Springbok hooker Lukas van Biljon crashed over from a line-out only two minutes later and Terblanché's near touchline conversion put the visitors ahead by one point at 19-18.
Two late tries from fullback Ricardo Loubscher, both fairly simple run-ins, gave the Sharks' scoreline some respectability, but coach Kevin Putt would not have been happy with his side's first-half showing.
"It was our first game of the season," said captain-on-the-night AJ Venter, "the first half didn't go as we planned, but we're just happy to have come out of this game with a win."
Venter, playing at lock, had a steady game, while others to catch the eye for the Sharks were new openside flanker Luke Watson – especially in the second half when he won a lot of ball on the ground – Shaun Sowerby, comeback kid Trevor Halstead, who had a hand in Loubscher's first try with a powerful burst, Deon Kayser and Loubscher.
For Quins, tighthead prop Jon Dawson, lock Simon Miall, captain André Vos and former Queensland Reds fullback Nathan Williams, impressed.
For Harlequins:Tries: Sheriff, Williams 2Cons: Williams 2
For the Sharks:Tries: Terblanché, James, Van Biljon, Loubscher 2Cons: Terblanché, KrugerDG: Terblanché
* Meanwhile, Sharks scrumhalf Neil Powell, who was drafted from the Cats' Super 12 region this season, was stretchered off the field in the 47th minute with a suspected broken leg. He faces a lay-off of at least six weeks.