Sale (3) 20
Tries: Thomas 2, Croall Cons: MacLeod Pens: Miller
Newport-Gwent Dragons (6) 28
Tries: Hughes 2, Brew Cons: Jones 2 Pens: Jones 3
Hughes took his season's try haul for Newport-Gwent Dragons to seven
Young centre Adam Hughes weighed in with two tries as Newport-Gwent Dragons hung on to beat Sale at Edgeley Park.
After leading only 6-3 at half-time, the Welsh side galloped 25 points clear with early second-half tries from late stand-in Hughes (2) and wing Aled Brew.
But Sale hit back late on, running in three tries of their own through props Henry Thomas and Aston Croall.
Dragons suffered a pre-match shock, with head coach Paul Turner suspended over an internal disciplinary matter.
But, with coach Shaun Connor at the helm, the Dragons did not use it an excuse, showing plenty of spirit.
And, aided by 13 points from the boot of fly-half Matthew Jones, they moved to within touching distance of the semi-finals.
Sale now play Saracens next week and Sharks coach Pete Anglesea still believes that his side also still have a chance of progressing.
Sale head coach Pete Anglesea said:
"Maybe it's not dead and buried yet. Maybe we can go to the last game and still have a chance of qualifying.
"We showed glimpses of good stuff but defensive errors against a well-drilled Newport Gwent Dragons team cost us in the end.
"I heard a quote from somebody downstairs that it looked like a team that was battle-hardened in the Heineken Cup against a team that's battle-hardened in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Maybe the lack of intensity in the last two weeks has shown today."
Dragons coach Shaun Connor said:
"What impressed me was the heart out there.
"There was a 15-minute period at the end where we were just constantly defending. But we had the spirit and heart to stick at it.
"We gave the ball back to Sale a little bit too easily and, against a side like Sale, they'll punish you.
"We came here to do a job, we came here to play, we were focused on the game and the boys have delivered."
Sale Sharks: Macleod; Thornley, Kennedy, Bell, Cohen; Miller, Peel; Imiolek, M Jones, H Thomas; C Jones, Rouse; Cox, Fearns, Koyamaibole.
Replacements: Roberts, Croall, McIntyre, Lewaravu, Brightwell, Cliff, Tuilagi, Williams.
Newport Gwent Dragons: M Thomas; Watkins, Hughes, Leach, A Brew; M Jones, J Evans; Roberts, S Jones, Palmer; Morgan, Sidoli; Bearman, L Evans, Ellis.
Replacements: Burns, Price, Robinson, A. Jones, G. Thomas, Petri, Smith, Tovey.
Referee: W Barnes (RFU).