Sale, with a great effort, turned Leicester over and the Tigers were fortunate to come away with a losing bonus point. In the first half, Sale were not given a penalty try when Tom Varndell pulled Lee Thomas back as he was about to score.
Philippe Saint-Andr, Sale's director of rugby, said: "We were very nervous to start with but eventually we made it, despite some mistakes in a very physical game."
Martin Corry, the Leicester captain, said: "We were winning the second half. We will have the pain from this defeat for a while, but there are positives to take from this game and we will take them."
The game started at a brisk pace Andy Goode and Charlie Hodgson both had clearances charged down, though the Sale outside-half had a kick at goal which earned his side the first points. Tom Croft then flattened Hodgson, so a second penalty followed before another to the Tigers, kicked by Goode.
After 20 minutes it was 6-3 to the home side and not one move had taken place which threatened a try. There was plenty of rucking and mauling, together with any number of kicks straight into touch, so the capacity crowd had little to cheer. Then came controversy. Thomas made a rare break and was pulled back by Varndell. The referee, Dave Pearson, could have awarded a penalty try straight away but instead called for the television match official, who refused to award any kind of score.
Hodgson then kicked his third penalty and Goode failed with his second attempt before the game finally caught fire. Sale's Scotland wing, Rory Lamont, scored an overlap try just moments before Johne Murphy crossed in the left corner for Leicester, so half-time arrived with the score 14-8 to Sale.
Goode began the second half with a penalty before two kicks to the corner brought Sale no reward. They promptly lost possession and gifted Goode another penalty. This one he put past the right post.
There was no pattern to the play, thanks to endless stoppages for replacements and repairs. Goode kicked another penalty to tie the scores before Hodgson banged over his fourth to make it 17-14. Leicester then won a series of five-metre scrums and Sale took one of them down for Goode to take another pot at goal the ball rebounded from an upright. The Sale scrum was by now in desperate trouble, the Tigers wheeling at will, their opponents hanging on grimly.
Despite that Richard Wigglesworth forced an attacking line-out, and though Leicester at first deprived Sale of possession Luke McAlister, after a quiet game, came close with a drop goal. He then sealed the win with a penalty.
Sale: Try Lamont; Penalties Hodgson 4, McAlister. Leicester: Try J Murphy; Penalties Goode 3.
Sale: J Laharrague; R Lamont (M Cueto, 46), L McAlister, L Thomas, O Ripol; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth; A Sheridan, S Bruno, E Roberts (S Turner, 40), D Schofield (B Cockbain, 62), S Cox (C Jones, 62), J White (capt), M Lund (N Briggs, 64), S Chabal.
Leicester: G Murphy; J Murphy, O Smith (D Hipkiss, 67), A Mauger, T Varndell; A Goode, F Murphy; M Ayerza, G Chuter, J White (M Castrogiavanni, 62), J Hamilton, B Kay, T Croft, L Abraham, M Corry (capt).
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).Reuse content