Julian Salvi’s late converted try sealed a superb second half comeback from the Leicester Tigers’ as they secured an unlikely 32-30 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The first half proved to be an outstanding game with both teams producing plenty of ambition, but it was ultimately Sale who generally controlled the opening period and went 25-15 up through Chris Cusiter, Will Addison and Nathan Hines tries.
Leicester’s response came via Seremaia Bai and Mathew Tait touchdowns while Freddie Burns also added five points from the boot.
Sam Tuitupou secured the bonus-point for the Sharks after the break and that looked to have garnered the win, but the Tigers produced an outstanding response.
Miles Benjamin’s try and Owen Williams’ penalty reduced the arrears before Salvi’s converted score sealed the win in the closing moments.
Richard Cockerill’s men looked to move the ball wide early on but a needless mistake allowed the Sharks to build their first attack.
Mike Haley and Sam Tuitupou both made significant inroads before the ball was shifted wide and Cusiter found enough to space to touch down.
It was a disastrous start for a team struggling to find their rhythm but, to their credit, they soon managed to string together a wonderful move which allowed Bai to go over.
Sale were caught short of numbers on the openside which meant Vereniki Goneva could slip through a gap and pass to Benjamin.
The wing made it into the opposition 22 and further pressure on the hosts’ rearguard eventually gave the Leicester centre a clear run to the line.
But back came the home side. The Sharks’ back three were a constant menace to the Tigers’ defence and a neat attack almost ended in their full-back crossing the whitewash.
Although he was adjudged to have knocked on, they were rewarded for their endeavour when Danny Cipriani added a penalty.
It was proving to be a free-flowing affair and, after Sale had once again gone close, the visitors, perhaps unjustly, went back into the lead when Ben Youngs spotted space on the blindside and Tait finished well in the corner.
Burns kicked the extras to take them 12-8 ahead, but they were unable to build on that four-point buffer as Steve Diamond’s men continued to display plenty of verve with ball in hand.
Johnny Leota, as he has done so often this season, showed his power and skill to provide Addison a clear run to the line.
Cipriani converted before the respective stand-offs traded three-pointers as Sale went into the latter stages of the half 18-15 in front.
In an enthralling opening period there was more action to come when another Addison foray almost saw Eifion Lewis-Roberts touch down.
The gargantuan prop was stopped short but, under pressure, the Tigers infringed and Jamie Gibson was sent to the sin-bin for a cynical infringement at the contact area.
Down to 14 men, the Tigers succumbed as Hines powered over from close range. The Sharks’ stand-off was once again successful from the tee and the home side took a deserved 25-15 into the interval.
Having been dominated for the final 20 minutes of the first half, Cockerill needed a response from his charges, but it initially failed to materialise and Sale completed the bonus-point when Tuitupou touched down unopposed.
However, there was still plenty of spirit left in the Tigers’ ranks and they managed to reduce the deficit through Benjamin’s well-taken try.
Williams then scored a penalty as the visitors began the mount the pressure on the home side.
And following Addison’s yellow card, Salvi crossed the whitewash to end a remarkable game with Williams’ penalty securing a crucial win for Leicester.