A second half hat-trick of tries from Francois Hougaard was not quite enough to secure victory for Warriors in a pulsating contest against play-off contenders at Sixways.
Warriors had to settle for the consolation of two bonus points but it could so easily have been more from a performance that bristled with pride and passion.
Ollie Lawrence had a try disallowed in the second half by referee Christophe Ridley and TMO David Grashoff who ruled that the England centre had been tackled before he reached out to place the ball over the line.
The other turning point came after 67 minutes when Warriors had a penalty advantage which was overturned when Niall Annett was penalised for accidentally taking out a man in the air.
Instead of an attacking lineout in Sale’s 22, Warriors found themselves defending and a break from Tom Curry set up Arron Reed for the first of two tries in a four minute period.
But Warriors refused to lie down and Hougaard scored twice in the last six minutes to set up a thrilling finale.
Even though there was under a minute to play when Jamie Shillcock converted Hougaard’s hat-trick try Warriors still managed to rattle Sale with Lawrence powering up the right before Currey scrambled back to win a penalty at the breakdown.
After three successive heavy defeats Warriors Head Coach Jonathan Thomas asked for a response from his players and he certainly got it with a physical and resilient performance.
Sale, against the run of play, had the opportunity to open the after 14 minutes scoring, but AJ MacGinty pushed a kickable penalty wide of the target.
Shillcock made no mistake two minutes later when Sale were penalised for holding on in a ruck and the full-back then scored a superb try that started deep in his own 22.
Sale gave away another penalty but referee Christophe Ridley played advantage and Fin Smith capitalised with a clever crossfield kick which found Alex Hearle.
The left wing gathered and managed to keep the ball in play before he was nudged into touch. Shillcock collected, chipped ahead, regathered and slipped out of a tackle to dot down for the try.
Shillcock was off target with the conversion but he made no mistake with a 26th minute penalty after Sale went offside under pressure from another sustained attack.
Sale struck back when centre Connor Doherty nipped in for a converted try before Shillcock was off target with a penalty in the dying seconds of the first half.
Warriors began the second half strongly with Alex Hearle charging down a clearance kick and feeding Hougaard, who was doubtful for the match because of illness.
Shillcock added the extras but Sale hit back immediately with a try from Byron McGuigan even though they were down to 14 men at the time with Reed in the sin bin.
Lawrence’s disallowed try and the reversed penalty were two huge momentum shifts in Sale’s favour and when Coenie Oosthuizen ploughed over nine minutes from time it appeared that Warriors’ efforts might go unrewarded.
But a superb attack involving Ted Hill and Lawrence was expertly finished by Hougaard and converted by Shillcock to reduce the deficit to three points.
The gap became ten points again within three minutes when JP du Preez crossed from close range and Kieran Wilkinson converted but Warriors never-say-die attitude produced a fourth try when replacement wing Harri Doel, on loan from Scarlets, wriggled free on the right and Hougaard again arrived in support to supply the finish.
Warriors | 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Tom Howe (Doel 72), 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Francois Hougaard, 1 Ethan Waller, 2 Niall Annett (Miller 70-77), 3 Nick Schonert (Palframan 60), 4 Anton Bresler (Clegg 33), 5 Andrew Kitchener (Dodd 75), 6 Ted Hill (C), 7 Sam Lewis, 8 GJ van Velze (Kvesic 60).
Replacements | 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Matt Kvesic, 22 Gareth Simpson, 23 Harri Doel.
16m | Shillcock pen 3-0
20m | Shillcock try 8-0
26m | Shillcock pen 11-0
32m | Doherty try 11-5
33m | MacGinty con 11-7
44m | Hougaard try 16-7
45m | Shillcock con 18-7
47m | McGuigan try 18-12
48m | MacGinty con 18-14
67m | Reed try 18-19
68m | MacGinty con 18-21
71m | Oosthuizen try 18-26
72m | MacGinty con 18-28
74m | Hougaard try 23-28
75m | Shillcock con 25-28
77m | JP du Preez try 25-33
78m | Wilkinson con 25-35
79m | Hougaard try 30-35
80m | Shillcock con 32-35