After successive wins over the Saints and Bath, Sale went into the game with much confidence, but were blown away by a rampant visiting pack, with Northampton scoring four first half tries.
Several of the players from Sharks' 2002 Parker Pen Shield win paraded the pitch at half time, but were unable to inspire a turnaround when Sale trailed 7-28 at the interval.
Sale sparked into life after just five minutes, and charged into an early lead.
Henry Thomas has found chances in the starting line-up limited to thanks to the sparkling form of Vadim Cobilas, but showed no sign of rustiness when he picked up a loose ball to stretch over.
It was once again a superb driving maul that set up the try for Thomas, against a Saints side which looked as shell-shocked as they did when visiting the AJ Bell stadium two weeks ago.
That said, Northampton had a point to prove, and hit back just ten minutes later. Ben Nutley waited patiently at the back of a maul, and managed to evade the Sharks' defence and level the scores.
The visitors found themselves ahead not long after. Sam Dickinson was this time the beneficiary of yet another rolling maul, which Steve Diamond's men struggled to get to grips with.
Things went from bad to worse soon after, as Sale were stung by a former player.
Will Hooley slipped a kick in for Ben Foden, who had time to dive on the ball and increase the Saints' lead further
Northampton's fourth came just before the half time whistle, with Nutley at the bottom of yet another maul.
A 21 point deficit was hardly what Sale deserved, but it was clear that something special was needed to turn things around.
The second half failed to kick in to any sort of life, thanks in part to several injuries, which saw Dom Waldouck stretchered off with what looked like a serious injury.
That said, Sale did enjoy some bright spells as the game wore on, but left it too late to mount a comeback.
Viliami Fihaki got himself on the score sheet to restore some pride.
Ultimately though, it was too little, too late.
Attention now turns to the crucial Harlequins game next week. Win that, and European disappointment will be a distant memory.
Sale Sharks: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady (Off 55mins), 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Rob Miller, 10 Nick Macleod (Off 52mins), 9 Will Cliff (Off 52mins), 8 Viliami Fahiki, 7 Mark Easter, 6 James Gaskell (capt), 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Henry Thomas (Off 62mins), 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison (Off 67mins)
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Aston Croall (On for Harrison 67mins), 18 Tony Buckley (On for Thomas 62mins), 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Nathan Fowles (On for Cliff 52mins), 22 Joe Ford (On for Macleod 62mins), 23 Phil Mackenzie (On for Brady 55mins)
Sin Bin:Thomas (36mins)
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 James Wilson, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Fa'atoina Autagavaia, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Ben Nutley, 6 Phil Dowson (c), 5 James Craig, 4 Sam Dickinson, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Christian Day, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7, 7-12, 7-14, 7-19, 7-21, 7-26, 7-28 (Half Time) 12-28, 14-28 (Full Time)
|Sale Sharks Score Card|
|Northampton Saints Score Card|