NORTHAMPTON moved to within two points of Leicester at the top of the Guinness Premiership after inflicting an eighth straight defeat on Sale, who slumped to the bottom.
Tries from wings Paul Diggin and England hopeful Chris Ashton helped the Saints to a first-ever league win at Edgeley Park after fly-half Stephen Myler had missed four straight-forward penalties.
Diggin’s first-half score was converted by full-back Bruce Reihana before Ashton went over and Shane Geraghty landed a penalty.
Ex-Saint Ben Cohen got a late try for the hosts but Charlie Hodgson missed a last-gasp penalty which would have given his side a losing bonus point.
“We created a lot of opportunities in the first half and were disappointed just to have that one score at half-time,” said Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder. “But it is tricky to come here and win and we’ll be driving up the motorway happy with the four points.”
Meanwhile, Leeds climbed off the bottom of the Premiership table with a third successive victory after beating stuttering Saracens at Headingley.
The boot of Derrick Hougaard helped Brendan Venter’s Sarries to a 9-3 lead at the break, only for a try from wing Lee Blackett and an inspired display from 19-year-old kicker Joe Ford to seal victory.
Former England fly-half Dave Walder scored 19 points as Wasps climbed to fourth in the table with a 24-19 victory over Gloucester at Adams Park. A late try from David Lemi proved the difference after Mike Tindall had touched down for Gloucester.
Bath bounced back from 10-5 down to beat Newcastle 17-13 at Kingston Park.