Hill makes a break as Bristol press in the second half
Bristol (6) 15
Pens: Hill 5
Sale (6) 9
Pens: Larrechea 2
New Zealand international David Hill kicked five penalties on his home debut as Bristol edged a tight affair.
All the points in the game came from the boot as Premiership champions Sale were left without a win at the Memorial Stadium since September 2001.
The Sharks took the lead when Sililo Martens fed a quick ball from a ruck to his half-back partner Daniel Larrechea who slotted home a 22-metre drop goal.
Bristol were level at the break and Hill's skills ground out the win.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men when England international Chris Jones, playing at openside flanker, was yellow carded for pulling down a rolling maul 10 metres from his own line.
Sharks number eight Sebastien Chabal was lucky not to follow Jones to the sin bin when he kicked the ball away after his side were penalised for standing up in the scrum.
From the penalty, on the Sharks 10 metre line, Hill put Bristol into the lead.
Bristol kept battering away at the Sale line but they seemed content to concede penalties with Hill increasing the Bristol advantage from 15 metres out.
Hill added a fifth penalty as the game went into the final 10 minutes.
Bristol coach Richard Hill:
"We tried to take a grip on the game. Sale defended well, and we should have won by a wider margin.
"If we had got that elusive try then I think the flood gates would have opened."
Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint Andre:
"It was almost an embarrassment for the supporters watching the game.
"I think it is impossible to play seven games when the internationals are on.
"Some games in the Premiership are great. But I don't think this one will be up there - and both sides were to blame."
Bristol: C Morgan; Robinson, Higgitt, Cox, Lemi; Hill, O'Riordan; Hilton, Regan, Crompton, Winters, Llewellyn, Budgett, El Abd, Ward-Smith.
Replacements: Brew for Cox (51), To'oala for Budgett (44).
Not Used: Blaney, Hobson, Sambucetti, Nicholls, Strange.
Sale: Robinson; Foden, Taylor, Bell, Hanley; Larrechea, Martens; Roberts, Bruno, Stewart, Cox, Schofield, Bonner-Evans, Jones, Chabal.
Replacements: Mayor for Hanley (62), Wigglesworth for Martens (62), Titterrell for Bruno (70).
Not Used: Evans, Lloyd, Hills, Thomas.
Sin Bin: Jones (39).
Referee: Sean Davey (RFU)