A late Max Crumpton try sealed a dramatic 24-23 win for Bristol over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday.
Sale were the better team in the opening quarter and they moved into a 15-0 lead through Denny Solomona's effort and a penalty try.
Mark Tainton's men did well to respond and were only five points in arrears at the interval after Jason Woodward's three-pointer and Tom Varndell's touchdown, a score which equalled Mark Cueto's Premiership try-scoring record.
Although James Mitchell's three-pointer and Johnny Leota's try appeared to give the Sharks some breathing space, Rhodri Williams and Crumpton touched down to snatch the win.
Having struggled over recent weeks, the Manchester outfit needed a positive start and they eventually got it when a series of scrum infringements by the visitors ended in a sin-binning for Ryan Bevington.
With the away side under pressure referee Ian Tempest duly awarded a penalty try, a score which James Mitchell converted for a 7-0 buffer. Solomona then crossed the whitewash after he collected Mike Haley's grubber before Mitchell made it 15-0 in the hosts' favour with a three-pointer.
Bristol could have folded at that stage but they displayed commendable spirit and deservedly got back into the contest. Woodward initially ate into that lead from the tee before Varndell scampered over following the full-back's impressive surge.
Sale regained control at the start of the second period when Mitchell kicked a penalty and Dan Tuohy then saw yellow for collapsing a maul. Under duress the visitors succumbed as Leota touched down but, to their credit, Tainton's side once again displayed their character.
Varndell's break ended in Williams going over before Rob Webber was yellow carded. Down to 14 men, the hosts failed to cope and Crumpton finished in the corner to reduce the deficit to one point. That left Woodward with a tough conversion but, having nailed pretty much every other effort in the contest, the full-back made no mistake from the tee to secure an incredible win.
Tries: Solomona, Leota, Penalty Try
Pens: Mitchell 2
Tries: Varndell, Williams, Crumpton
Cons: Woodward 3
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 Sam James, 9 James Mitchell, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Ben Curry, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Byron McGuigan
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Jack Wallace, 13 Thretton Palamo 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Will Cliff,
8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Olly Robinson (c), 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 James Phillips, 20 Mark Sorenson, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Luke Arscott.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, Andrew Jackson
TMO: Keith Lewis