Newcastle claimed their second Powergen Cup victory in four years as they edged a seven-try thriller against Sale in the highest-scoring final ever.
Newcastle: 37 (10)
Tries: Britz, Vyvyan, Shaw, Dowson
Cons: Walder 4
Pens: Walder 3
Sale: 33 (13)
Tries: Hanley, Cueto, Mayor
Cons: Hodgson 3
Pens: Hodgson 4
A try from replacement Phil Dowson five minutes from time finally settled a scintillating see-saw contest that saw the lead change hands six times.
The Sharks led 13-10 at half-time and 33-30 with six minutes to go.
But Hugh Vyvyan's charge down of Charlie Hodgson's kick allowed Dowson to give Newcastle a Heineken Cup spot.
It was appropriate Vyvyan played a part in the decisive moment, the captain named man-of-the-match on one of his final outings before departing for Saracens.
But there was sympathy for Hodgson, who slotted seven-out-of-seven kicks at goal before his late error.
His opposite number Dave Walder collected 17 points as Newcastle edged the try-count four-three in a riveting match of free-flowing, running rugby.
The Falcons dominated the early exchanges, a dreadful loose pass from Jason Robinson inside the first minute almost letting in wing Michael Stephenson.
But the first try arrived after seven minutes, centre Mark Mayerhofler drawing in the Sale defence before flanker Warren Britz powered his way through some flimsy fringe defence.
Walder converted from wide out, but Hodgson promptly banged over a penalty in reply and by the 15th minute Sale were in front.
A break-out from hooker Andy Titterell was halted, but captain Pete Anglesea drove to within a metre of the line and the predatory Steve Hanley dived over for his 15th try of the season.
Hodgson added the extras only for Walder to level matters with a penalty at the other end in the 23rd minute.
Robinson had one trademark break
Hanley was unfortunate not to claim a second score when a wicked bounce from Nick Walshe's clever kick ahead eluded him.
But it was Newcastle who continued to dominate possession and territory, even if they found themselves behind at half-time after Hodgson slotted his second penalty.
The Falcons appeared to be taking command on the resumption when Vyvyan forced his way over after Stephenson was held up in the left corner, Walder adding a superb conversion.
But the lead changed hands again when Mark Cueto demonstrated his own finishing prowess by selling Tom May a dummy and sprinting to the posts.
Hodgson's conversion and subsequent penalty gave Sale a 23-17 lead, but the tit-for-tat nature of the contest continued.
Walder looped round Mayerhofler before delivering a precise pass for Joe Shaw to score, the stand-off's conversion regaining the lead.
But Shaw's elaborate celebrations were short-lived as Sale hit back with their own third try, centre Chris Mayor scything past the entire Newcastle back-row.
Newcastle refused to buckle, Walder bringing the scores level with two penalties in quick succession, only for Hodgson to edge Sale in front with his fourth penalty.
But the fly-half's joy quickly turned to despair as his clearing kick was charged down by Vyvyan, and replacement flanker Dowson ploughed over from the ensuing scrum.
Walder converted and despite a desperate Sale siege in the closing minutes, the Falcons held out for victory.
Newcastle: Shaw, May, Noon, Mayerhofler, Stephenson, Walder, Grindal, Peel, Makin, Ward, Archer, Grimes, Dunbar, Britz, Vyvyan.
Replacements: Hurter, Charlton, Hamilton, Thompson, Dowson, Lilley, Gollings.
Sale: Robinson, Cueto, Baxendell, Mayor, Hanley, Hodgson, Walshe, Sheridan, Titterrell, Stewart, Fullarton, White, Anglesea, Sanderson, Jones.
Replacements: Cairns, Turner, Schofield, Perrett, Going, Hercus, Wigglesworth.
Referee: Tony Spreadbury (RFU)