Harlequins (12) 19
Tries: Evans, Strettle, Easter Cons: Evans 2
Sale (24) 29
Tries Peel, MacLeod, Seymour, Cohen Pen: Hodgson Cons: Hodgson 3
Peel breaks through the Quins defence to score Sale's first try
Sale boosted their Heineken Cup hopes with a bonus-point win over Harlequins in a superb encounter at the Stoop.
Tries from Dwayne Peel, Nick MacLeod and David Seymour helped the Sharks to a 24-12 half-time lead, with Nick Evans and David Strettle crossing for Quins.
Nick Easter drove over early in the second half for the home side but Ben Cohen scored soon after for Sale.
Harlequins fought back but Sale held out for a win that takes them joint second with Cardiff Blues in Pool Five.
With three games left to play in the pool stages of the competition, the Sharks are now in pole position to challenge leaders Toulouse, who sit one point ahead of them and visit the Stoop in the final match in January.
In contrast, Harlequins are now rooted to the foot of the table with only a single point from their three games, and in need of a miracle if they are to qualify.
Sale made the perfect start to the match as they twice cut through the home defence to score.
Firstly, MacLeod fielded a high ball and sparked a counter-attack involving Mathew Tait, Lee Thomas and Cohen, who combined to send Peel through to touch down.
Minutes later, Neil Briggs broke the Quins defence before feeding MacLeod to finish, with Charlie Hodgson converting both tries.
The home side rallied and hit back through a moment of quality from Evans, who initially wrong-footed the defence before chipping Mark Cueto and collecting to score a try, which he also converted.
However, straight from the restart Sale restored their 14-point lead when Seymour capitalised on hesitant defending from the kick-off to run clear for a try again converted by Hodgson.
Harlequins once again rallied and Chris Robshaw and Chris Brooker combined to allow Strettle to score in the right corner, but Evans missed the conversion.
A late Hodgson penalty meant Sale had the last word of the half.
Harlequins made the best possible start to the second half as Easter burrowed over from close range following a period of concerted pressure and Evans converted.
Sale quickly hit back again through a flowing move in which Hodgson, David Bishop and Tait all played a key role to set up Cohen to cross and claim a four-try bonus point for the Sharks.
Tom Williams replaced George Lowe after 66 minutes, his first Heineken Cup action since faking a blood injury to his mouth in last season's home quarter-final defeat by Leinster, but he was unable to inspire the home side in the closing stages.
Harlequins head coach John Kingston:
"It was win or bust. We gave away so many soft tries in the first half that we had to really go for it in the second.
"We spoke at the break not about mistakes but about reminding the boys that what we'd seen is not us and that we'd switched off at times.
"It's been a massively disappointing Heineken Cup campaign, but we should warn Sale that we won't travel all the way up there next weekend without being competitive."
Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones:
"It could have been 40-30 to us, but our discipline second half wasn't good enough.
"We knew we could score tries against this team, as we showed in the first half.
"We had nearly 30 minutes of defending manfully during the last third of this game, and I am very proud of the players."
Harlequins: Brown, Strettle, Tiesi, Lowe, Monye, N. Evans, Dickson, Jones, Brooker, Andress, Stevenson, Robson, Robshaw, Skinner, Easter.
Replacements: T. Williams for Lowe (68), So'oialo for Dickson (57), Fuga for Brooker (55), Lambert for Andress (57), Guest for Stevenson (59), McMillan for Skinner (55).
Not Used: Croall, Clegg.
Sale: MacLeod, Cueto, M. Tait, Thomas, Cohen, Hodgson, Peel, E. Roberts, Briggs, Forster, Gaskell, Cox, Fearns, Seymour, Koyamailbole.
Replacements: Bishop for Thomas (50), Wigglesworth for Peel (70), M. Jones for Briggs (65), Kerr for Forster (30), Abraham for Koyamailbole (57), Halsall for Kerr (75).
Not Used: C Jones, Ripol.
Ref: Nigel Owens (WRFU).