Danny Cipriani was Sale's hero as the Premiership strugglers overturned a 27-12 deficit to gain a dramatic, morale-boosting triumph over Cardiff on their return to the Heineken Cup.
The Sharks were trailing by 15 points when Cipriani, making his way back from injury and illness, was introduced from the bench after 49 minutes and he scored one try and created another as Bryan Redpath's men went on to snatch a breathless victory.
Sale gained a 27-26 win over the Blues in their last Heineken Cup campaign at Edgeley Park three years ago and Redpath will be hoping today's repeat victory - their first at the new Salford City Stadium - will kick-start their season after opening with six straight defeats.
Cardiff, who played all but five minutes of the match without Sam Warburton due to injury, were still leading 30-24 when they were reduced to 14 men with the sin-binning of replacement Lewis Jones seven minutes from the end.
And the extra man advantage proved crucial as former Munster prop Tony Buckley was driven over for the match-winning try a minute later, although the Sharks were hanging on in the end after Leigh Halfpenny's seventh goal from as many attempts had cut the gap to a solitary point.
Elsewhere Northampton survived a major scare at Franklin's Gardens before launching their Heineken Cup campaign in bonus point fashion.
The Saints, tournament runners-up to Leinster in 2010, trailed 15-0 before they turned the Pool Four clash on its head through three tries in six minutes either side of half-time.
Centre George Pisi touched down twice, while fly-half Stephen Myler's try just after the break nudged Northampton ahead for the first time before wing Vasily Artemyev's late effort sealed it.
However two-time Heineken Cup champions Leicester could not pick up a point from their opening Pool Two match against Toulouse after defeat in the south of France.
The Tigers were only 11-9 behind at the break but the kicking prowess of Luke McAlister won the day for the home side with his boot accounting for 18 points, with centre's Gael Fickou's first half try the only of the game.