Sale (6) 13
Try: Tait Con: Hodgson Pens: Hodgson 2
Toulouse (6) 19
Try: Lacombe Con: Elissalde Pens: Elissalde 2 Drop-goals: Elissalde 2
Elissalde kicked two drop-goals for Toulouse in the first half
Sale missed out on a place in the Challenge Cup with this defeat while three-time champions Toulouse booked a home Heineken Cup quarter-final.
Needing a bonus-point victory to qualify for the second tier Challenge Cup, Sale held their illustrious opponents in a tense first half.
But Toulouse went ahead after the break through Virgil Lacombe's try.
Mathew Tait scored for Sale on 65 minutes but two Jean-Baptiste Elissalde penalties guided the French side home.
The scores were tied at 6-6 at the break as fly-half Charlie Hodgson knocked over two penalties for the hosts, with opposite number Elissalde kicking two drop goals for the visitors.
However, the home side's excellent start was halted when they were forced to play 20 minutes of the game with 14 men.
Number eight Sisa Koyamaibole was yellow-carded for a foolish off the ball charge on Frederic Michalak, while second row Chris Jones was adjudged to have come in from the side at a ruck after a period of sustained Toulouse pressure.
The second half began with Toulouse on the attack and this time the pressure told when Lacombe broke free and dived over, Elissalde adding the conversion.
Elissalde added another penalty before a fine individual score from centre Tait, who showed good strength to step inside the cover defence and reach over.
Hodgson added the extras to close the deficit to three points and set up a frenetic finale before Elissalde kicked his second penalty to stretch the visitors' lead.
Sale had one last chance to snatch victory, but lost an attacking lineout five metres out and the opportunity was gone.
Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones:
"I have no qualms about Sisa's yellow card.
"I thought Chris Jones' card was a bit harsh, but we need to play the game on the edge but not over the edge.
"It cost us today, to play 20 minutes against a great side like Toulouse means they are going to find a weakness.
"That 10 minutes just after half-time killed us. That's what Toulouse can do to you and we have a lot to learn."
"I felt in the last 10 minutes we might have a good chance of victory.
"We also started brightly and looked good at the tackle area, but discipline let us down.
"Having said that, we scored a good try and got in some good areas."
Sale: MacLeod; Cueto, M Tait, Kennedy, Doherty; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; E Roberts, Schwalger; Halsall, C Jones, Schofield, Gaskell, Abraham, Koyamailbole, Tuilagi.
Replacements: Tuilagi for Kennedy (49), Leck for Wigglesworth (73), M Jones for Schwalger (73), Cox for C Jones (69), Fearns for Abraham (20), Ripol for Tuilagi (76).
Not Used: O'Donnell, Kerr.
Sin Bin: Koyamailbole (9), C Jones (38).
Toulouse: Poitrenaud; Clerc, David, Jauzion, Heymans; Elissalde, Michalak; Poux, Lacombe, Lecouls, Maestri, Albacete, Lamboley, Dustautoir, Picamoles.
Replacements: Fritz for David (66), Kelleher for Michalak (61), Servat for Poux (66), Montes for Lacombe (66), Human for Lecouls (40), Bouilhou for Maestri (60), Sowerby for Lamboley (66), Medard for Picamoles (73).
Sin Bin: Clerc (47).
Ref: Alain Rolland (Ireland).