Jamie Elliott enjoyed a fairytale start to his Aviva Premiership career by scoring one try and creating another as Northampton marched to the top of the table with a 19-10 win over Sale.
The 18-year-old marked his Premiership debut with a clever assist for Greig Tonks' 55th-minute score and a try of his own five minutes from time. Sale's desire could not be faulted and they scored the only try of the first half thanks to an exhilarating breakaway effort from former Saints wing Ben Cohen.
However, three penalties from Stephen Myler put Northampton 9-7 ahead at the break and Tonks' try gave them further breathing space before Elliott's late second. It was a fifth defeat in eight outings for Sale, but Northampton - minus England quartet Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes - claimed their seventh Premiership victory of the season.
They could have led inside the opening minute but Myler was off target with a long-range penalty attempt. Four minutes later he made no mistake from inside the hosts' 22.
Genuine try-scoring opportunities remained scarce until Sale scored against the run of play in the 25th minute thanks to a bad mistake from Tom Wood. The Northampton flanker gifted Sale possession just inside his own half and a swift pass out to Cohen allowed the former England wing to scamper clear down the right flank.
Nick Macleod kicked the conversion from the touchline, but the visitors came back strongly and Sale's determination was summed up perfectly when debutant Iain Thornley, 19, hauled down Tonks with a superb saving tackle.
Moments later, Dwayne Peel charged down a kick, raced after the ball and then hauled a Northampton defender into touch. However, Myler booted two penalties shortly before the break to edge his side 9-7 ahead.
A delightful flighted kick into the right corner from Myler was caught by Elliott and he showed intelligence to usher the supporting Tonks over from close range.
Myler could not convert and Macleod missed two penalties before succeeding with another attempt in the 70th minute to set up a grandstand finish.
However, Elliott found space to burrow his way over in the right corner in the 75th minute and, although Myler missed the conversion, it was a fine night's work for Northampton, while Sale failed to collect so much as a losing bonus point.