Danny Cipriani staked his claim for an England place in front of head coach Stuart Lancaster as he helped guide Sale Sharks to a 20-7 triumph over Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership.
Sale dominated the first half and took a 13-0 lead at the interval through Eifion Lewis-Roberts' try and two Cipriani penalties.
The Sharks, who dominated up front, also controlled the second period and Dan Braid's try effectively sealed the win.
Teimana Harrison went over for the Saints, but it was a chastening afternoon for the league leaders as they suffered just their third domestic loss of the campaign.
Having gone on a run of four consecutive victories in the league, defeats to Leicester Tigers and Wasps meant that the Sharks went into this game in seventh place.
Although director of rugby Steve Diamond rested a few players for their excursion down to Coventry, their 41-16 hammering at the hands of Dai Young's men was a particular setback.
However, no doubt reeling from Diamond's words of wisdom in midweek, the hosts came out with far more intent against the Saints.
The visitors struggled to get control of proceedings early on as Will Addison and Magnus Lund came within inches of touching down.
Northampton remained stout in defence but conceded a penalty which Cipriani converted to give the home side a deserved lead.
Sale continued to dominate with the east midlands outfit unusually making a number of mistakes and a Ben Foden and George North mix-up allowed Sale to set up another attack.
Once again they were stopped short of scoring that elusive try but their stand-off was on target from the tee as they moved 6-0 clear.
Admittedly, the Sharks were taking on a side without some of their first choice individuals - Jim Mallinder forced to name two back-rows in the second-row for example - but the Saints were surprisingly lacking in intensity and physicality.
Perhaps the minds were focused on their European Champions Cup match versus the Ospreys next week, but they certainly found it difficult to compete with Sale.
To their credit, Saints managed to stay resolute under enormous pressure until Sam Dickinson saw yellow for a needless hit on Lund.
With Dickinson off the field, the hosts finally scored the try their play deserved as a driving maul resulted in Lewis-Roberts touching down.
The Sharks ended the half 13-0 in front and looked to extend that advantage after the break as they camped themselves inside the Northampton 22.
This time, Diamond's men could not break through as the Saints' last-ditch defence remained resilient. However, the visitors were still conceding penalties and eventually referee Matthew Carley lost patience.
Flanker Calum Clark was duly yellow carded and the home side went further ahead when Braid crossed the whitewash.
Northampton did hit back in their brief foray into opposition territory as Harrison went over, but it was only a consolation score as Sale held on.