Wasps (9) 25
- Tries: Thomas
- Cons: Jones
- Pens: Jones 4, Daly, Robinson
Sale (8) 18
- Tries: Vernon, Leota
- Cons: Miller
- Pens: Miller 2
Wasps extended their 100% home record this term with a win over Sale to take them to seventh in the Premiership.
Stephen Jones's three penalties gave the hosts a one-point half-time lead after Richie Vernon went over for Sale to add to Rob Miller's kick.
Jones and Miller added more points before Rhys Thomas's decisive try.
Nick Robinson's penalty extended Wasps' lead but Johnny Leota's try at the death, converted by Miller, gave bottom side Sale a losing bonus point.
Wasps' win sees them climb above Worcester and Bath and puts them one point behind sixth-placed Exeter, and 21 points above their opponents.
While Sale will be relieved to have secured the bonus point the fact is, for all their endeavour, they struggled to make inroads against an under par Wasps - although they were not aided by 11 missed points from the tee.
They remain five points adrift of London Irish with just seven points.
That is the same points haul that Leeds had midway through the 2010-11 season, when they were relegated, and four fewer than Newcastle had garnered mid-season last term.
With Danny Cipriani denied the chance to feature against his former club - he was left out of the squad entirely - kicking duties initially fell to Nick Macleod, who missed an early opportunity to square the scores after Jones's early penalty.
Jones struck again from 40m midway through the first half before Miller halved Sale's deficit with a wobbly long-range effort.
Soon after, Vernon finished off a seven-phase move instigated by Sam Tuitupou's bullocking break.
The ball was worked wide for the Sharks number eight to go over and put the visitors in front, although Macleod missed the conversion.
With Sale's tails up, their forwards carried well and they put everything through the hands as they repeatedly got beyond the gain-line.
Eliot Daly's thumping penalty, 54m out and on a wide angle, put Wasps one point ahead coming up to the break, although Miller missed a chance to put Sharks back in front just before the whistle.
Jones and Miller exchanged three pointers before the former Wales fly-half made it 15-11 after Dave Seymour was caught offside.
Wasps try came from a blistering 50m break from the superb Billy Vunipola after he picked up at the break of the scrum. The number eight was hauled down just short but Thomas was on hand to go over.
Jones's conversion gave the hosts an 11-point lead but Sale's introduction of Fraser McKenzie into the second row sparked a revival in the visitors.
The Scot inspired two multi-phase attacks from the Sharks' forwards which were met with stern Wasps defence.
Sale were full of industry but Wasps slowed the ball down repeatedly and when Miller was handed a chance to claw back three points with seven minutes left he produced a kick that typified their woeful season so far.
Robinson, who had replaced his countryman as Wasps' 10, extended the hosts' lead to 14 points and all seemed lost for the visitors.
But they refused to give in and after Leota reached for the line with no time left on the clock Miller held his nerve to land a tricky conversion.
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young:
"We found a way to win but there is still a lot of improvement to find.
"If we had played one of the top four in the Premiership today we would have come unstuck.
"However, it's a measure of how far we've come as last season we would have been incapable of playing poorly and still winning."
Sale boss John Mitchell:
"The bonus point has pushed us closer to London Irish just above us.
"They are just in front of us and not a long way off so we have our destiny and we have to deal with what's in front of us.
"There was a soft breach in our defence for their try and their kicking game was better than ours with our 9-10 and 15 letting us down there as their execution wasn't good enough.
[On Cipriani's omission] "He has to improve his defence. Last week against Toulon he defended for 35 minutes and then chose not to do so."
Southwell; Wade, Masi, C Bell, Daly; S Jones, Simpson; Taulafo, T Thomas, Swainston, Launchbury, Wentzel, Johnson, Haskell, Vunipola.
Robinson for S Jones (71), Davies for Simpson (78), Payne for Taulafo (57), Lindsay for Thomas (69), Taylor for Swainston (74), Cannon for Wentzel (68), Poff for Haskell (57).
Miller; Jennings, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; MacLeod, Cliff; Harrison, Jones, Roberts, Gray, Myall, Gaskell, Seymour, Vernon.
Uys for Cueto (79), Brady for MacLeod (59), Willis for Cliff (49), Croall for Jones (69), Buckley for Roberts (49), McKenzie for Myall (60), Powell for Gaskell (69).
JP Doyle (RFU).