Sale director of rugby John Mitchell warned Danny Cipriani to improve further after his relegation-threatened side beat Worcester 33-27 to claim only their second Aviva Premiership win of the season.
The Sharks have been rooted to the foot of the table since the start of the campaign but they dug deep to claim a precious victory in a fraught encounter at a windswept Salford City Stadium. Fly-half Cipriani marked his return with a steadily influential display and 18-point haul after being dropped for his side's defeat at London Wasps in their previous outing.
Yet Mitchell said of Cipriani: "He played well and defensively showed some improvement tonight, but I'd still like to see him get his shoulders on and I'm sure everyone would."
He added: "He stiffened up defensively, which is what we've asked him to do and that is a sign of a player wanting to improve, but I don't think it's so much about him.
"It's about him playing his role within the team because ultimately it's not about any individuals. As you could see, that was a very good team effort and clearly, with a guy of his (Cipriani's) class, we need him to be at that level every week - not just one in three."
He kicked four penalties and converted tries from Richie Gray, James Gaskell and England winger Mark Cueto, whose touchdown saw him draw level with former Sale team-mate Steve Hanley's all-time Premiership try-scoring record of 75.
The result lifted Sale to within one point of second-bottom London Irish and encouraged hopes that survival remains within their grasp. Sale chief executive Steve Diamond, who sat alongside Mitchell at the post-match press conference, believes the battle to avoid the drop will go right down to the wire.
He said: "We're still bottom of the league but we're catching the 11th spot and that's that target we've got. We've got to try and catch London Irish over the next four or five weeks and we're in no doubt that we're in a dogfight until the last game of the season. We're not going to pull ourselves free until the first week of May, I don't think."
With the wind at their backs in the first half, Worcester quickly established a 9-0 lead with three penalties from former England international Andy Goode.
Goode kicked five penalties in all and converted Neil Best's first-half try before a late touchdown from flanker Matt Kvesic gave Worcester a deserved losing bonus-point.