Clermont Auvergne (6) 15
Pens: James 5
Sale (13) 32
Tries: Doherty, McAlister, Keil, Cueto Cons: McAlister 3 Pens: McAlister
McAlister was one of the key players in Sale's impressive win
Sale got their Heineken Cup campaign off to the best possible start with a stunning win at Clermont Auvergne.
With Luke McAlister notching a penalty and a drop goal for Sale to Brock James' two penalties, David Doherty's try separated the teams at the break.
James cut the lead to four points after the restart but Sale hit back when McAlister scored and converted a try.
With time running out Clermont became stretched and Rudi Kiel and Mark Cueto both scored to complete a famous win.
Going into the game, the French side had lost at home only once in their last 39 games, but repeated stoppages for injuries to Sale players in the early stages meant they never got into their stride.
The Sharks were more than happy to let Clermont's frustration build, before the visitors' first meaningful attack resulted in the opening try.
Dwayne Peel made a break from the half-way line and was well supported by Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, who in turn produced a superbly-timed one handed offload to Doherty, who was charging up the left wing to score in the corner.
Finally this sparked Clermont to life, with Benoit Baby looking particularly threatening, but when they did eventually get on the scoreboard after 30 minutes, it was only a James penalty.
He cut Sale's lead to seven points with another kick which went over off the post, but missed a third kick at goal right on half-time.
Having missed the chance to close the gap before the break Clermont came out fighting after the restart, with Luke Abraham and Sebastien Chabal putting up a resolute defensive effort for Sale.
Charlie Hodgson came on to replace Peel and this produced instant dividends as he set up Rory Lamont to charge straight at the Clermont line, spin through a challenge and slip the ball to McAlister to go over in the corner.
Going into the last 10 minutes, another James penalty cut Sale's lead to just five points, but as the home side grew increasingly desperate, Sale pounced.
Clermont tried to launch a counter-attack with a long defensive pass but the ball was stolen by Abraham, allowing Kiel to trot in and touch down in the corner.
Cueto then ensured Sale capped a famous victory with a bonus point as he dived over for their fourth try a minute later.
Sale coach Phillipe Saint Andre:
"I'm very proud of my team after seeing them put on their best performance in Europe and the best I've seen since we won the Premiership final.
"If you come here and you're not bold, you lose by 40 points.
"Now we have to put two big displays back to back by beating Munster. If we win here and lose at home, the work we did here will count for very little."
Clermont Auvergne: Floch; Vonowale-Nalaga, Baby, Bai, Malzieu; James, Mignoni; Emmanuelli, Ledesma, Zirakashvili, Pierre, Privat, Bonnaire, Audebert, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Garcia for Baby (54), Mignardi for Bai (76), Lozupone for Emmanuelli (62), Domingo for Ledesma (62), Samson for Privat (70).
Not Used: Etien, Senio.
Sale: Lamont; Cueto, McAlister, Thomas, Doherty; Wigglesworth, Peel; Faure, Briggs, Roberts, C Jones, Ormsby, Fernandez Lobbe, Abraham, Chabal.
Replacements: Keil for Thomas (13), Hodgson for Peel (46), M Jones for C Jones (69).
Not Used: Turner, Schofield, White, Bell.
Ref: A Lewis (Ireland).