Sale (6) 14
Tries: Cueto Pen: Hodgson 2 Drops: Hodgson
London Irish (8) 8
Try: Ojo Pen: Geraghty
Cueto's performance was watched by England manager Martin Johnson
Mark Cueto enhanced his England prospects by scoring his fourth try in three games as Sale defeated Premiership leaders London Irish.
The winger touched down in the 57th minute after fine work from Charlie Hodgson and substitute Mathew Tait.
Fly-half Hodgson added two penalties and a drop-goal.
London Irish had taken an 8-6 lead at half-time after winger Topsy Ojo's 29th minute try, with Shane Geraghty adding three points with a penalty.
Cueto's match-winning score was all the more well-timed with England manager Martin Johnson watching from the stands.
However, the 29-year-old blotted his copybook when he was sent to the sin-bin soon after scoring for his part in an altercation with Exiles replacement hooker David Paice.
Earlier, Sale forward Sebastien Chabal confronted a member of the Irish bench after words had been exchanged following a tackle on Ojo after just six minutes.
Hodgson's first penalty gave Sale an early lead but the visitors went ahead courtesy of a sweeping move as Geraghty, Seilala Mapusua and Peter Hewat sent Ojo over in the right corner.
A Hodgson drop-goal put Sale back in front before the visitors regained the advantage at the interval when Hewat landed a 35th-minute penalty.
The lead changed hands once more on 49 minutes when Hodgson landed his second penalty for a slender one-point lead.
But Cueto's fine try gave Sale a more comfortable margin of victory.
Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre on Mark Cueto's prospects of an England recall:
"Jonno [Martin Johnson] was sat next to me so you'll have to ask him but Cueto is back to his best and he scored a try again.
"It's the best he's been in a long time - even during the World Cup he struggled with injury - but he's had a good pre-season and you can see in training how confident he is right now.
"He'll beat people one on one and when you're on the wing, you want this. He finished well for his try tonight."
London Irish coach Toby Booth:
"Obviously we are disappointed with the result because I thought we created quite a lot of chances.
"But when you don't take those opportunities you get punished. We are always aiming to improve and we will aim to learn lessons from tonight's game."
Sale: Cueto; Bell, Tuilagi, McAlister, Doherty; Hodgson, Peel; Faure, M Jones, Roberts, Chabal, Schofield, C Jones, Briggs, Fernandez Lobbe.
Replacements: M Tait for Tuilagi (50), Wigglesworth for Peel (77), Sheridan for Faure (59), Abraham for M Jones (41), Cockbain for Schofield (55).
Not Used: Turner, McLeod.
Sin Bin: Cueto (58).
London Irish: Hewat; Ojo, Seveali'i, Mapusua, Homer; Geraghty, Hodgson; Dermody, Coetzee, Lea'aetoa, Hudson, Casey, Danaher, S. Armitage, Hala'ufia, Corbisiero.
Replacements: Catt for Seveali'i (71), Corbisiero for Lea'aetoa (53), Roche for Hudson (53), Thorpe for Danaher (70), Johnson for Corbisiero (60).
Not Used: Paice, Lalanne.
Sin Bin: Paice (58).
Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).