Newcastle Falcons fell short in the Premiership’s northern derby, a first half full of promise evaporating during a dismally low-key second 40.
They even missed out on the consolation of a losing bonus point, Andy Saull’s try and the boot of Phil Godman having kept them in contention throughout.
Sale had arrived hoping to extinguish the painful stat of having only won once at Kingston Park in 20 attempts, boosted by the return of Danny Cipriani after the bout of flu which had kept him out of last weekend’s bad-tempered loss at Leicester.
Newcastle had designs on ending a run of five consecutive league defeats, handing a debut to Samoan winger Sinoti Sinoti less than a week after landing in the country.
With a month of European and Anglo-Welsh action to follow, the 12 Premiership teams will have to sit and stare at the table as it stands tomorrow for four weeks - and the Falcons wasted no time in getting going.
Sinoti caught the kick-off with ease and left his tackler for dead with quick feet, a set line-out down the left seeing Kieran Brookes put through a gaping hole by Carlo del Fava.
The resulting ruck and Sale’s inability to stay within the laws allowed Phil Godman a simple penalty from in front, one he duly put between the uprights.
Cipriani levelled with a long-range penalty in his side’s first visit to the home half, but the Falcons were showing a zip and penetration which has been missing for large chunks of the campaign as Mike Blair looked to offload and Saull foraged away at the breakdown.
Cipriani’s kicking radar was off from a 40-metre penalty, Newcastle countering the length of the field in another flowing passage which, while failing to deliver a try, at least got the crowd off its feet.
A fine scrum wheel handed Godman a second pop at goal, one the veteran Scot failed to take as an eminently kickable penalty went begging from inside the 22.
However, they had laid the platform, Mark Wilson’s energetic running around the fringe of the ruck and Scott MacLeod’s return to the line-out ensuring a steady stream of possession.
Sale’s ruthless use of what scraps they had brought dividends when a Mark Cueto foray down the left was transferred to the other wing, Tom Brady rounding off a three-on-two down the right before Cipriani drilled the touchline conversion.
It seemed cruel given the home side’s domination, but such is life in the bottom reaches of this unforgiving league.
Newcastle at least made amends when the second of two penalties kicked to touch delivered the try they had sought, MacLeod’s take at the front of the line-out seeing Saull driven over in the left corner.
Godman’s conversion lacked the legs to draw the sides level, Newcastle lock Del Fava sin-binned for taking out a support runner as Sale opted to scrummage against a seven-man pack rather than take the easy three.
It backfired as the under-manned home scrum pinched a penalty, but the final play of the half saw play worked back upfield as Cipriani chipped a second penalty for a 13-8 half-time lead.
Backed by the wind second half but battling in torrential rain, Godman’s cross-kick to the impressive Sinoti threatened to find an in-road. It came to nought, Newcastle keen to show they could work with the elements in a manner they had failed to do against London Wasps and Exeter Chiefs.
The result was a territorial barrage as they pinned Sale’s back three inside their own half,
Blair’s injury-enforced departure after taking a heavy hit at a midfield ruck saw Warren Fury enter the fray, Dwayne Peel seizing the moment to snipe 50 yards upfield before Tait cleared tidily under pressure from the Welshman.
Del Fava joined Blair on the sidelines after being clattered off the ball, referee Andrew Small somehow deciding to keep 15 Sale players on the field despite persistent infringements around the breakdown.
It was frustrating the Falcons, Wilson’s slack handling seeing a line-out in prime position wasted as he looked up at the defence rather than across to the ball coming in his direction.
Twice in succession Fury and Godman kicked the ball dead in the hunt for easy yards in the North East corner, on each occasion the crowd groaning.
Tired minds and a muddy ball saw the error-count growing for both sides, Cipriani failing to break the impasse as his 63rd-minute penalty flew wide from 30 metres out.
Rory Clegg was given a quarter at fly-half as Dean Richards searched for a solution, but the passes weren’t sticking as territorial dominance was not capitalised on.
Even James Fitzpatrick’s ballast could not get them home, replacement Nick MacLeod’s 73rd-minute penalty adding to the pain by removing the consolation of a bonus point.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait, N Cato, D Barnes, A Powell (J Fitzpatrick, 66), S Sinoti, P Godman (R Clegg, 63), M Blair (W Fury, 48); R Vickers (F Montanella, 63), S Lawson (G McGuigan, 78), K Brookes (O Tomaszczyk, 63), C del Fava (S Tomes, 55), S MacLeod, M Wilson (R Mayhew, 71), A Saull, A Hogg (captain).
Sin-bin: C del Fava (32)
Falcons scorers - Tries: A Saull. Penalties: P Godman.
SALE SHARKS: R Miller, T Brady, J Leota, S Tuitupou, M Cueto, D Cipriani (N MacLeod, 71), D Peel; R Harrison (E Lewis-Roberts, 48), T Taylor (M Jones, 48), V Cobilas (H Thomas, 65), J Mills, M Paterson, D Braid (captain), D Seymour, J Gaskell (V Fihaki, 40).
Sale scorers - Tries: T Brady. Conversions: D Cipriani. Penalties: D Cipriani 2, N MacLeod.
Referee: A Small. Attendance: 4,143.