Lawrence Dallaglio is not accustomed to cameo roles; he has always been a centre-stage performer. Having joined the England fray in Saturday's Calcutta Cup match during the final quarter, he had hardly over-stretched himself and was deemed fresh enough to be consigned to bench duties against leaders Sale yesterday. But when he came on in the 58th minute at the Causeway Stadium, he was soon at the epicentre of events in a tumultuous period when the outcome was settled, and Sale's firebrand No 8, Sébastien Chabal, was shown a red card for stamping on Dallaglio and then, apparently, compounding the offence by spitting at Fraser Waters.
This was only Sale's third defeat of the campaign, and Wasps have cut their lead at the top of the table to four points after a rousing second half when Wasps came from behind and Dallaglio and another England replacement, Simon Shaw, made an immediate impact.
"The message from the coaches was to raise the tempo," said Dallaglio. "And it's great to finish the weekend like this." Wasps began by exuding all the confidence one would expect of a side who have remained unbeaten at the Causeway for 13 months.
But Sale then showed how dangerous they could be in attack. Richard Wigglesworth ushered Mark Taylor into space for him to put his co-centre Robert Todd across for a spanking try. Wigglesworth converted and added two penalties to hand Sale the half-time advantage at 13-9. Mark van Gisbergen scored all Wasps' points with three penalties, but Ian McGeechan's team could well have been in front, Ayoola Erinle almost scoring, and Daniel Leo and Joe Ward held up inches from the goal line.
Apart from another Wigglesworth penalty, it was all Wasps. Shaw led the charge, which ended with Richard Birkett claiming their first try. Rob Hoadley got the second and both were converted by Van Gisbergen. There was just time for Chris Jones to upend Dallaglio without the ball and Van Gisbergen to slot the penalty and end Sale's slim hope of a bonus point.
Wasps: Tries Birkett, Hoadley; Conversions Van Gisbergen 2; Penalties Van Gisbergen 4. Sale: Try Todd; Conversion Wigglesworth; Penalties Wigglesworth 3.
Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey (T Voyce, 58), A Erinle, F Waters, R Hoadley; J Staunton, J Honeyben (H Biljon, 82); A McKenzie, J Ward (J Barrett, 49), T Payne (capt; J Dawson, 63), G Skivington (S Shaw, 58), R Birkett, D Leo (L Dallaglio, 58), T Rees, M Lock (Dallaglio 32-33).
Sale: J Robinson (capt); O Ripol (C Mayor, 67), M Taylor, R Todd, S Hanley; R Wigglesworth, S Martens; B Coutts (L Faure, 62), A Titterrell, S Turner (B Stewart, 62), I Fernandez Lobbe, D Schofield (C Day, 75), C Jones, M Lund, N Bonner-Evans (S Chabal, 46).
Referee: R Maybank (Kent).
* Saracens were plunged deeper into the relegation mire after suffering an eighth successive Guinness Premiership defeat, this time against Bristol. They are now only four points above bottom club Leeds.
* London Irish moved into the top four of the Premiership after an emphatic four-try victory over Northampton Saints at the Madejski Stadium.Reuse content