|Bath (17) 20|
|Tries: Redpath, Bayliss Cons: Priestland 2 Pens: Priestland 2|
|Sale (17) 24|
|Tries: JP du Preez, McGuigan, Hammersley, Langdon Cons: MacGinty 2|
Sale survived simultaneous sin-binnings as they came from behind to get a late bonus-point victory at Bath and boost their Premiership play-off bid.
Sale spent seven minutes two men down without yellow-carded pair Cobus Wiese and youngster Raffi Quirke, but Bath only managed a Rhys Priestland penalty.
Curtis Langdon then got over from a driving line-out for Sale’s fourth try to lift them above Exeter into second.
Sale are now 14 points clear of fifth-placed Northampton, who have four games left – but the Sharks’ final three games are all against fellow top-four sides as they chase a first Premiership title since 2006.
But Sharks boss Alex Sanderson revealed afterwards that England centre Manu Tuilagi is expected to be back fit for the games with leaders Bristol on Friday 28 May, followed by another home game against Harlequins, then the final-day trip to Exeter on Saturday 12 June.
Reigning champions Exeter will have a chance to climb back into second when they play London Irish on Tuesday night.
Bath led three times in the first half after tries by Cameron Redpath and Josh Bayliss, both converted by Wales international Priestland, who also kicked a penalty.
JP du Preez, Byron McGuigan and Simon Hammersley all crossed too for Sale, but AJ MacGinty managed just one conversion, as well as missing a penalty.
And Sale’s defensive work, especially after the loss of two men, set up the platform for their late try-scoring rally finished off by reserve hooker Langdon after Bath had themselves been reduced to 14 men following skipper Charlie Ewels’ yellow card.
Even then there was still one more twist with five more minutes of added time after Sale winger McGuigan was also sin-binned – the third of the night and the 21st of the season for the Sharks – but Sale again held firm.
Bath, who picked up only a losing bonus point, had their night further soured by a bad first-half ankle injury to South African hooker Jacques du Toit, who was stretchered off on his first start.
He was replaced by Bath academy graduate Tom Doughty, who was making his first appearance after being recalled from loan at Championship side Coventry, as cover for the suspended Tom Dunn.
Bath rugby director Stuart Hooper:
“I am frustrated but credit to Sale for holding us out. They have now got as good a chance as anyone out there.
“We had moments when we could, and probably should, have won.
“But there have been moments in other games when we should have won.”
Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson told BBC Radio 5 live:
“It’s a rollercoaster. Entertaining for everyone else, but not for me. It was mental turmoil. But we’ve not been there (to Twickenham) for 15 years and we’re on the charge.
“A nice Brucie bonus win keeps us in contention for the semi-finals and we’ve now got a few big players coming back at the right time of the season.
“I’m not happy about all the yellow cards we get. We’re going to address it but, on the flip side, we’ve won eight out of 10 games when we’ve got a yellow card. The boys seem to step up whenever we get one.”
Bath: de Glanville; Watson, Clark, Redpath, Muir; Priestland, Chudley; Schoeman, du Toit, Thomas, Spencer, Ewels, Bayliss, Underhill, Mercer.
Replacements: Doughty, Bhatti, Judge, McNally, Faletau, Spencer, Bailey, Cokanasiga.
Sin-bin: Ewels (76).
Sale: Hammersley; McGuigan, S James, Hill, Yarde; MacGinty, de Klerk, Rodd, van de Merwe, Oosthuizen, Phillips, JP du Preez, Wiese, T Curry, JL du Preez.
Replacements: Langdon, Morozov, Harper, Neild, B Curry, Quirke, Wilkinson, Doherty.
Sin-bin: Wiese (57), Quirke (60), McGuigan (79).