After five minutes, Sale were 10-0 down; after six minutes, Leicester were so confident of victory that they were running kickable penalties. But Sale, instead of crumpling in the face of a rampant Leicester, turned and fought.
Seventeen points behind and half an hour gone, and they ran a penalty right by the posts. The No 8, Charles Vyvyan, was driven over - and from then on a cracking game it was.
Sale did what they failed to do against Wasps a fortnight before. Against the Londoners, they collapsed under pressure; against Leicester, it stiffened them. But the difference between the two games - and the two degrees of resolve - was their player-coach Paul Turner, absent in Sudbury but very present at Welford Road. He picked the side up when it was down and just about out. He encouraged; he directed; he was urgent and unpredictable in his play; he gave the game life.
And the rest of the Sale side responded, particularly in the pack, where the second-rows Dave Baldwin and Dylan O'Grady fought every line-out, denying Martin Johnson the dominance he might have expected. But in the end it was a battle between tenacity and class - and class ultimately came out the winner.
Leicester were simply too tight a side to get pounded into defeat: Dean Richards at No 8 did what he has done supremely for years for club and country - denying the opposition the loose ball.
Jez Harris was faultless, both as an outside-half, dictating play, and as a kicker, with his five penalties, two conversions and a drop goal. And they had a potent strike-force on the wings: Tony Underwood drew the cover before sending the right-wing Steve Hackney scrambling over to open the scoring; Underwood himself then jinked through with four men outside him to get the second Leicester try; Hackney got his second straight from the start of the second half.
Throughout, Sale fully confirmed that they are an adornment to the First Division. They got their second try from the centre Jos Baxendell after strong running by Gareth Stocks. Good they were, but the opposition yesterday was so much better.
Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, D Edwards (D Grewcock, 43), T Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; D Jelley, C Johnson, D Garforth, M Johnson, R Field, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.
Sale: J Mallinder; S Verbickas, J Baxendell, G Stocks, M Appleson; P Turner, M Warr; P Smith, S Diamond, N Wheeler, D Baldwin, D O'Grady, M Kenrick (capt), C Vyvyan, N Ashurst.
Referee: B Campsall (RFU).Reuse content