Saracens did just enough to edge past Sale 19-15 in Salford and keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
Tries from Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola, as well as nine points from Charlie Hodgson and Farrell, were enough against a stubborn Sale side.
Steve Diamond’s team kept the pressure on with scores from Magnus Lund and Andrei Ostrikov, and spent much of the last ten minutes in the Sarries 22, threatening to take the spoils right until the 80th minute.
They couldn’t find a way over however, and fell to their third defeat in as many games.
Charlie Hodgson opened the scoring with an early penalty for the visitors but Sale would be first to cross the whitewash.
The Sharks maul has been a key weapon for them this year and once again it delivered as they rumbled over after a line-out with Magnus Lund carrying the ball. Danny Cipriani added the conversion and the hosts were looking good.
Hodgson provided an excellent reply however, setting up a great try for Owen Farrell as he broke from inside his own half before stepping inside and offloading. Farrell’s momentum was enough to take him over and put Sarries back in front. The conversion was missed but the visitors held a 7-8 lead.
Sales weren’t ready to lie down however and the lead changed hands twice again as Cipriani and Farrell exchanged penalties to hand Sarries a one-point gap at the interval.
The game was still there for the taking. But Vunipola’s try early in the second half, which was scored following more impressive play from a line-out, gave Saracens a cushion.
But again Sale replied as Andrei Ostrikov finished off a excellent try to go over on the hour mark.
Again the conversion was missed, but crucially the Sharks were unable to add the extras to their own effort when Andrei Ostrikov evaded two defenders to score out wide following good work from Lund and Sam Tuitupou.
The concession reduced Saracens’ advantage to a single point, but Farrell’s drop goal on 66 minutes gave them breathing space.
They were forced to defend resolutely in the closing minutes of the game and they survived the Sharks’ barrage to confirm victory.
Tries: Lund, Ostrikov
Tries: Farrell, M. Vunipola
Pens: Hodgson, Farrell
Drop goals: Farrell
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Luke McLean, 13 Mark Jennings, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Magnus Lund (coffee), 6 Mark Easter, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 James Flynn, 19 Viliami Fihaki, 20 Andrew Highes, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Will Addison
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (coffee), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Chris Wyles
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium, Salford
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)