Sale ended their Heineken Cup campaign on a high with a 26-17 victory over Clermont Auvergne in their Pool 1 clash at Edgeley Park.
The Premiership side only had pride to play for as they were already out of the running for a place in the last eight but they still conjured a victory that also ended the visitors' slim hopes of progressing.
Last weekend's 37-14 trouncing away to Munster meant they began today's match with a record showing two wins and three defeats in five Pool One games. One of those two victories had come in France against Clermont Auvergne in the first round of games, and Sale ensured a repeat.
The English side got off to a flying start thanks to wing Oriol Ripol. Moments after putting in a brilliant try-saving tackle on South African Grant Esterhuizen, Ripol collected a pass in the Clermont 22 from flanker Luke Abrahams to go over for a try.
Fly-half Seremaia Bai got the Frenchmen off the mark with a penalty but the Sharks had territorial advantage through the opening half-hour. Yet they could not turn that into points, other than one Luke McAlister penalty to add to his earlier conversion.
The Sharks were made to pay for failing to turn their dominance into points. Clermont exposed a weakness down the home left touchline as wing Napolioni Nalaga put in a deft chip ahead which led to centre Thomas Combezou squeezing between two defenders to grab the try.
Then, after lock Thibaut Privat was sin-binned for an infringement at a ruck, Nalaga scored a terrific try, passing two defenders on a 40-metre burst. Bai boomed over both conversions and suddenly it was looking like revenge was on for that opening-round cup defeat.
But, right on the stroke of half-time, Clermont killed the ball at a ruck in front of their posts and deadly McAlister took his side in 17-13 down and at least back within a try of the opposition. Handling let Sale down a couple of times on enterprising moves early in the second half, particularly when McAlister made a sizzling burst down the left only to fail to find Ripol with his touchline pass.
The Frenchman again found themselves down to 14 men on the hour when Combezou was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle. McAlister took advantage of that by hammering over a 40-metre penalty when Clermont were caught offside in midfield.
The mistake-riddled match, though, was becoming tedious viewing for the crowd as the ball found itself on the ground more than in the arms of receivers on both sides. Then came another glorious moment of skill - and this one put Sale in front again.
British Lions scrum-half Dwayne Peel, who was overlooked by Wales coach Warren Gatland for their Six Nations squad, showed what the national boss will be missing as Sale turned over a Clermont ruck and the former Scarlets number nine sprinted 40 metres and past two would-be tacklers to dive in on the right.
Following another trip upstairs to the video referee, Sale were awarded another try after No.8 David Tait dived in at the corner flag to seal the win.
Sale Sharks director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre sang the praises of his scrum-half who bounced back after he was left out of the Wales squad by national coach Warren Gatland last Monday. "He [Peel] played very well. He was very good in defence and did a lot of work. He scored a good try and showed that he could have done a job for the Six Nations. But I will have Richard Wigglesworth and Dwayne Peel next week so, in a selfish way, it is not too bad."
And in a slight attack on the reasons why Gatland dropped the 64-times capped scrum-half, Saint-Andre added: "It is better to tell us why he is not picked and not to say it is because he does not play enough with us because that is not true."
Saint-Andre, who has been linked with French side Toulon, says he still has not decided where he will be going at the end of the season but added, "I am very focused to finish well in the Guinness Premiership. If we can win next week at Worcester, we can be in the top two after 12 games so this is not a problem. And now I don't have a problem with this because it is Kingsley who comes in every morning with all the worry!"
Clermont head coach Vernon Cotter reflected on the defeat and said his side would come back stronger in the future. "I thought we got our hands on the ball often enough and led for the better part of the game. They played the better rugby in the second half," said Cotter. "The match slipped away from us and Sale played stronger. The most important thing was the way we played and I think we will go away reasonably satisfied with what we wanted to do. There are things we can and can't control. We tried to play with good intention."
Sale: McLeod, Cueto, M. Tait, Thomas, Ripol, McAlister, Peel, Sheridan, Bruno, Turner, C. Jones, Cockbain, Fearns, Abraham, D. Tait.
Replacements: Wigglesworth for M. Tait (54), Keil for Thomas (68), Kuadey for Ripol (75), M. Jones for Bruno (45), O'Donnell for Turner (57), Cox for Cockbain (76). Not Used: Hills.
Clermont Auvergne: Floch, Esterhuizen, Combezou, Garcia, Vonowale-Nalaga, Bai, Senio, Debaty, Lozupone, Zirakashvili, Samson, Privat, Cudmore, Audebert, Etien.
Replacements: Mignardi for Garcia (67), Radoslavjevic for Senio (54), Scelzo for Debaty (64), Davison for Zirakashvili (64). Not Used: Jacquet, Lapandry, Fofana.
Sin Bin: Privat (29), Combezou (57).
Man of the Match: Luke McAlister (Sale Sharks)
Ref: Peter Allan (SRFU).