Premiership: Sale Sharks 18-11 Exeter Chiefs
|Sale Sharks (6) 18|
|Tries: Cueto, Cipriani Cons: Cipriani Pens: Cipriani 2|
|Exeter Chiefs (3) 11|
|Tries: Waldrom Pens: Steenson 2|
Exeter Chiefs missed the chance to go top as Sale Sharks ended their eight-match winning run with a tense victory at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Danny Cipriani kicked the first of his two first-half penalties after Exeter were reduced to 13 men, with Damian Welch and Ben White sin-binned early.
Gareth Steenson teed up Exeter's reply to make it 6-3 at the break.
Mark Cueto and Cipriani then grabbed tries, with Thomas Waldrom going over in response to earn a bonus point.
Victory extends Sale's Premiership winning run to four games and lifts them above Saracens and Leicester Tigers in the table to fourth.
It was Exeter's first defeat in all competitions since their 29-24 loss against Newcastle Falcons on 5 October and leaves them in third.
|Sale Sharks' Premiership winning run|
|15 Nov: 36-8 v London Irish (H)||21 Nov: 16-12 v Harlequins (A)|
|30 Nov: 18-13 v Newcastle (A)||19 Dec: 18-11 v Exeter Chiefs (H)|
Sale's fierce pack put the Chiefs under intense early pressure in difficult wet and windy conditions, with Exeter lock Welch sin-binned on 10 minutes for collapsing a maul.
Daniel Braid looked to have gone over soon after, but referee Wayne Barnes ruled that Exeter's defence had done enough to hold the flanker up on the line.
Cipriani eventually opened the scoring, slotting a penalty after Exeter had been reduced to 13 men following White's yellow card.
Before they had regained full strength, Exeter hit back, with fly-half Steenson scoring with his first sight of goal.
For all their dominance, Sale could only add a further three-pointer to their tally as Cipriani kicked one of his two attempts to finish the half.
Exeter showed great resilience in defence throughout, with some particularly poised work from Henry Slade to work the ball out of his own in-goal area the highlight of a torrid night.
The Chiefs were eventually breached out wide on 51 minutes, Cipriani sending Cueto over in the corner before Steenson hit back with his second penalty.
Cipriani again linked up with Cueto for the next score, but the England hopeful was unable to convert his own try as he picked up an slight leg injury diving over the line.
Exeter made the most of Andrei Ostrikov's sin-binning on 71 minutes, Waldrom driving over for his eighth Premiership try of the season.
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond:
"Cipriani produced two moments of magic, as he does, but that came on the back of pressure from the forwards and the lesser-known players. But he gets the reward by scoring a brilliant try and made a try for Cueto.
"I'm really pleased with our pack and our defence, so overall it was a good night for us.
"We're a good side and we showed that tonight in our intensity and our discipline."
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter:
"Sale dominated the game and got what they deserved. They dominated the key areas and if you get on top in those conditions then you deserve to win.
"Ultimately a bonus point is a relatively successful outcome for us considering how we looked at times during the game.
"We gave away a few early penalties and then got a couple of yellow cards, so we were under pressure right away then."
Sale Sharks: Haley; Addison, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Cusiter; Lewis-Roberts, Jones, Cobilas; Mills, Hines; Braid (capt), Lund, Beaumont.
Replacements: Mamukashvili, Harrison, Flynn, Ostrikov, Seymour, Cliff, Ford, Jennings.
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Nowell, Slade, Whitten, Jess; Steenson, Chudley; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Low; Mumm (capt), Welch; Ewers, White, Waldrom.
Replacements: Taione, Rimmer, Brown, Lees, Horstmann, Thomas, Hill, Hughes.
Referee: Wayne Barnes