London - South African brothers Robert and Daniel du Preez contributed 12 of Sale Sharks' points in their 22-19 victory over Premiership leaders Exeter on Saturday, avenging two defeats this season in the Champions Cup.
Robert landed seven with the boot and younger sibling Daniel claimed a try as Sale scored all their points in a rip-roaring first half performance.
Sale are four points adrift of Exeter after withstanding a second half fightback.
Second-placed Northampton had slipped to a surprise 20-16 home defeat by London Irish on Friday.
Sale moved into third due to Gloucester's 34-16 thrashing by Bristol.
The Sharks got going through a penalty by Robert du Preez and a try from former England wing Chris Ashton.
Despite being a man down - Rohan Janse van Rensburg sent to the sin bin - Sale added to their first-half tally with further tries by Daniel du Preez and Scotland wing Byron McGuigan, who intercepted a poor pass to touch down against his former club.
Sam Simmonds and Tom O'Flaherty - who had also been sin-binned in the first half - scored tries for the hosts in the final quarter of the match to at least secure a losing bonus point.
However, Sale held on to record their first win at Exeter since 2014.
Exeter's director of rugby Rob Baxter said he would take the defeat on the chin even though only on Friday he had called on his players to take a stranglehold on the Premiership during the Six Nations which gets underway next weekend.
"Sometimes you just need to stop and get the batteries plugged back in and I've said to the lads, make sure you're emotionally recharged and physically recharged and you're ready to kick off again," he told BBC Radio.
His Sale counterpart Steve Diamond said it was great to get an away win over the top side but felt the performance could have been better.
"There was a lot of endeavour and skill to score three tries at the start and loads of spirit in the team," he told BBC Radio.
Gloucester's defeat was bitterly disappointing for their head coach Johan Ackermann especially as Bristol were recording their first Premiership win since November.
Bristol outscored their opponents three tries to one with Callum Sheedy scoring 19 points with his boot in front of almost 19 000 spectators.
"For me it's massively disappointing, the whole performance, but we expected to have more ball, more composure on our first-phase attack, but we never saw the ball," Ackermann told BBC radio.