Montpellier end Sale home record to earn first Challenge Cup semi
Montpellier inflicted a first home defeat of the season on Sale Sharks to reach the European Challenge Cup semi-finals for the first time in a 25-19 victory at AJ Bell Stadium.
Sale were the only side yet to lose at home in Europe this season and no team had conceded fewer than their tally of nine tries in the group stages.
The hosts held a narrow lead at the break as Montpellier's Paul Willemse and Sale's Tom Brady traded tries before Danny Cipriani's boot put Sale ahead 11-10.
But five penalties from Benoit Paillaugue put in-form Montpellier, second in Top 14, into a commanding lead as Sam James' late try for Sale proved in vain.
Willemse crashed over in the 13th minute after sustained pressure at the line, but Brady finished off a well worked Sale move before Cipriani's penalty just after the half-hour mark had Sale in front.
However, the hosts were guilty of several instances of ill-discipline after the break and Paillaugue's accuracy saw the French side edge ahead.
Montpellier's Thibaut Privat was sent to the sin bin on the hour, but a yellow card for Neil Briggs shortly after evened the numbers and, despite a Cipriani penalty bringing the score to within two points, Paillaugue continued to make Sale pay with the boot.
Sale ensured a nervy ending when James collected Cipriani's terrific offload before gathering his own chip to score, but it was not enough to preserve their home record or deny Montpellier a semi-final spot.