Sale (5) 24
Fernandez Lobbe, Roberts, Schofield, Tait Cons:
Northampton (10) 18
N Best, Lamont Con:
Chabal was making his final appearance for Sale
Sale's hopes of reaching the play-offs were finally ended despite a bonus-point victory over Northampton, as other results went against them.
A bonus-point win was the minimum requirement for the Sharks, but it proved to be in vain.
The Sharks trailed 10-5 at half-time after Neil Best's 32nd-minute try.
But scores from Eifion Roberts, Dean Schofield and Mathew Tait ensured they at least sent Philippe Saint-Andre back to France with a victory to enjoy.
Saint-Andre is taking the reins at Toulon after more than five years at the helm of Sale, during which time he led them to the league title.
The former France winger is one of several key personalities to be leaving the club at the end of the season, with captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, iconic forward Sebastien Chabal, Lionel Faure, Sebastien Bruno, Jason White and Luke McAlister all departing.
Fernandez Lobbe ended his Sale career with a try, opening the scoring after 21 minutes in the right corner.
Northampton fly-half Stephen Myler scored his side's first points with a penalty, but it was Sale who were enjoying the best of the play with Richard Wigglesworth and Charlie Hodgson combining to go close for the home side.
But Northampton scored the next try of the game with Best crashing over next to the posts to give his side the lead.
Northampton full-back Chris Ashton was sin-binned shortly before half-time for a professional foul, and after the break Sale finally made their dominance tell on the scoreboard.
Roberts powered his way over in the left corner after 53 minutes and Schofield then showed good pace to grab a third for his side.
A long-range Myler penalty cut the gap in the 63rd minute before a delightful solo effort from Tait gave them the bonus point they were after.
Sean Lamont rounded off the scoring with a late try, but neither team could truly be happy after the game - although Sale have definitely qualified for the Heineken Cup.
Northampton, meanwhile, can qualify if they win the European Challenge Cup.
Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones:
"The way the players have played in the last two weeks has been outstanding.
"I think it speaks volumes about the men in the dressing room that they did everything asked of them.
"The period that killed us, of course, was during the autumn internationals. We had injuries and people called up to play for their countries.
"With a squad of 31 men, and six or seven kids, to be without up to 10 current internationals is very difficult. That's something we have identified and something going forward that we will change."
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder:
"Finishing eighth is quite good and we've done well in cup competitions, but we'll be looking to improve further.
"Northampton have the infrastructure to be a top club."
Macleod; Cueto, M Tait, Tuilagi, Ripol; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; Faure, Bruno, Roberts, Chabal, Schofield, Jones, Briggs, JM Fernandez Lobbe.
Turner, Sheridan, White, D Tait, Peel, Keil, Kuadey.
Ashton; Diggin, Ansbro, Clarke, Lamont; Myler, Foden; Tonga'uiha, Sharman, Stewart; Fernandez Lobbe (capt), Lawes; Best, Gray, Easter
Gray, Smith, Day, Hopley, Dickson, Everitt, Mayor