Sale (6) 16
Try: Schofield Con: McAlister Pens: McAlister 3
Munster (13) 24
Tries: Warwick, Wallace Con: O'Gara Pens: O'Gara 2 Drops: Warwick, O'Gara
Wallace's try on 67 minutes was a vital moment for his Munster side
Defending Heineken Cup champions Munster held off a brave Sale fightback to carve out a crucial away victory.
The visitors were 16-6 ahead at the start of the second half, Paul Warwick scoring a try and a drop-goal, while Ronan O'Gara kicked eight points.
But Sale hit back, Luke McAlister's penalty and Dean Schofield's try levelling it at 16-16 after 58 minutes.
Munster dug in after being reduced to 14 men and sealed victory with David Wallace's try and O'Gara's drop-goal.
After last week's narrow home win over Montauban, the champions' display was a real statement of intent about their determination not to relinquish the trophy without a fight.
But it leaves Sale, who ruffled a few feathers with their highly impressive win at Clermont Auvergne last week, now playing catch-up after just two games played in Pool One.
It was the home side who made all the running in the opening stages, McAlister missing one attempt before slotting over a penalty on five minutes.
But the rest of the half was all Munster as the visitors began to dominate the fiercely contested breakdown area.
O'Gara replied on 11 minutes before 27-year-old full-back Warwick was sent over for the first try of the afternoon after some fine handling from O'Gara and Alan Quinlan.
Sale tried to make things happen but mistakes were costing the Premiership side dear and wing Mark Cueto had to cover deep in his own half after Chris Jones' dropped ball led to Munster turning defence into a 60m attack.
From the resulting line-out, Sale failed to find touch and Warwick fired over a sublime long-range drop-goal out to give the visitors a 13-3 lead after 23 minutes.
McAlister kicked his second penalty two minutes later but O'Gara restored Munster's 10-point advantage after the kick-off when Rudi Keil was penalised for offside.
Ronan O'Gara was yet again a commanding figure for his side
With the game slipping away from the Sharks, Sale coach Philippe Saint-Andre needed to make something happen and the introduction of fly-half Charlie Hodgson on 46 minutes almost paid off.
Scrum-half Dwayne Peel was removed after a torrid time at the hands of the Munster back row, with Richard Wigglesworth switched to the nine position, and suddenly Sale started to click.
The combination of Hodgson and McAlister gave the Munster defence all sorts of problems and the Kiwi slotted over his third penalty when Lifeimi Mafi was penalised for dumping replacement hooker Marc Jones on the floor.
Sale then pulled level when neat interplay between McAlister and Hodgson released Jones, who offloaded to Schofield on his shoulder for a converted try.
The score set up a thrilling finale and Munster took hold of the game when Mafi's flat pass was gratefully collected by Wallace who crashed over with 13 minutes left.
Sale had a superb chance to reduce the deficit when Mafi was sin-binned on 72 minutes for a high tackle on Mathew Tait, but McAlister missed his penalty attempt.
The miss was ruthlessly punished, O'Gara firing over a drop-goal with four minutes left to seal the victory and to deny Sale a losing bonus point.
Elsewhere in Pool One, Clermont Auvergne failed to earn a bonus point as they struggled to a 24-19 victory away to Heineken Cup debutants Montauban.
Sale coach Philippe Saint-Andre on his decision to start the game with Charlie Hodgson on the bench:
"Munster deserved the win because they were better than us.
"It's always easy to speak about decisions after the game than before the game. Last week Wigglesworth did very well against Clermont Auvergne and that team deserved another chance against Munster.
"I make the decisions - sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.
"But Charlie is a fantastic player and in the five seasons that I've been here he has played all the time. Today when he came on he showed what he is capable of and he tried to create a lot of things around him.
"Charlie is an intelligent guy and a hard worker. I'm sure he will be fantastic for us this year.
"Munster came to do a job on us and they did, especially in the first half."
Munster coach Tony McGahan:
"There are areas for improvement because things are far from over.
"Clermont are going to be looking to bounce back and they're a top side.
"But this was another chapter in Munster's history and full credit to the players because they were outstanding today."
Sale: Lamont; Cueto, McAlister, Keil, Doherty; Wigglesworth, Peel; Faure, Briggs, Roberts, Chabal, Cockbain, C Jones, Abraham, Fernandez Lobbe.
Replacements: M Jones for Briggs (44), Turner for Roberts (66), White for Chabal (54), Schofield for Cockbain (50), M Tait for C. Jones (68), Hodgson for Peel (44).
Not Used: Bell.
Munster: Warwick; Howlett, Earls, Mafi, Dowling; O'Gara, O'Leary; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Quinlan, O'Sullivan, Wallace.
Replacements: Ryan for Quinlan (63), Melck for O'Sullivan (52), Murphy for Melck (75).
Not Used: Fogarty, Pucciariello, Stringer, D. Hurley.
Sin Bin: Mafi (72).
Ref: C Berdos (France)