Sale Sharks (5) 21
- Tries: Braid, Cueto
- Con: Miller
- Pens: Miller, Cipriani
- Drop: Macleod
Exeter Chiefs (13) 16
- Try: Votu
- Con: Steenson
- Pens: Steenson 3
A record 76th try in the Premiership from Mark Cueto helped Sale fight back to record just their third league win of the season against Exeter.
Dan Braid's early try put Sale ahead, but Watisoni Votu went over from close range for Exeter as the visitors ended the first half well on top.
But former England wing Cueto finished a fine move before Danny Cipriani's penalty put the Sharks ahead.
The win gives bottom of the table Sale renewed hope they can avoid relegation.
Wing Jack Nowell missed a chance to open the scoring for the Chiefs in the ninth minute, knocking on close to the line under pressure from Sale stand-off Cipriani, but Cipriani's high tackle on Votu soon afterwards gave Gareth Steenson the chance to put the visitors ahead with a penalty.
Sale hit back when David Seymour gathered a line-out close to the Exeter line and Braid peeled off and dived over almost unopposed.
Cipriani missed the conversion, allowing Steenson to restore Exeter's lead with his second penalty.
The Chiefs forwards were in control, and after a Neil Clark forward pass saw Luke Arscott denied a simple try, five minutes before the break Votu, making his league debut, drove through the Sale defensive line for the opening try.
Steenson extended the lead with an early second half penalty, but with 25 minutes remaining Cueto was on hand to finish the best move of the match to bring the Sharks back into the game.
Rob Miller, taking over the kicking duties from the wayward Cipriani, landed both the conversion and a subsequent penalty to bring the Sharks back to within a point.
Cipriani then kicked a close range penalty off the post before Nick Macleod kicked a drop goal.
But it took a review to rule out what looked like a last minute Exeter try by Nowell to confirm Sale's desperately needed victory.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond:
"Exeter don't make many mistakes, but some wise words were said at half time about stopping their big runners in the backs, stopping them offloading, and our defence stepped up after the break.
"We haven't played well in the first half of the season, but that can happen, and since Christmas we've turned it around a little bit.
"We're fully fit now, which helps, and we'll go to London Welsh with belief."
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter:
"First and foremost we shouldn't detract from a good performance by Sale, who came into this game under real pressure - but the match should have been dead and buried at half time.
"We were very wasteful, we blew three or four good scoring chances before the break, and in the second half we got messy.
"We lost the game through stupidity more than anything else. If you have opportunities you must take them. Even at the end we blew a great opportunity. The game should never have been tight."
Miller; Amesbury, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Peel; Harrison, Taylor, Thomas; Holmes, Myall; Braid, Seymour (capt), Gaskell.
Vernon for Braid (43), Addison for Amesbury (47), Cliff for Peel (51), Dickinson for Harrison (55), Peel for Cliff (59), Buckley for Thomas (59), Jones for Taylor (59), Macleod for Miller (62) Cliff for Peel (66)
Arscott; Votu, Naqelevuki, Shoemark, Nowell; Steenson, Chudleyl; Moon, Clark, Tui; Hayes (capt), Mumm; White, Scaysbrook, Baxter.
Horstmann for White (52), Thomas for Chudley (56), Dollman for Votu (59), Muldowney for Hayes (59), Rimmer for Moon (61), Yeandle for Clark (69), Brown for Tui (69)