Saints’ struggles at the AJ Bell Stadium continued as Sale Sharks secured a 20-13 win on Sunday afternoon.
Jim Mallinder’s men headed north having not won at Sale in the Aviva Premiership since November, 2012 - and they were to suffer again at the hands of the Sharks.
A first-half score from Sam James and a second-half effort from Will Addison, both fine tries, was enough to secure the victory for Steve Diamond’s men.
Saints were not as clinical as their hosts and Stephen Myler’s 13 points, which included a 51st-minute try, only proved enough for a losing bonus point.
Northampton have now lost two of their first three matches in the league, with their only win so far coming last week, against Newcastle Falcons.
That 42-16 win had given Saints real belief that they could banish memories of bad away days at Sale, but they knew they would need to make a strong start to lay the platform.
They certainly did that in the scrum, winning two early penalties, but the tactic of kicking to the corner was not paying off as the Sharks stood tall to the waves of attack.
The home side had a chance to take the lead when Danny Cipriani lined up a penalty, but the fly-half fired it to the left of the posts.
However, he was on target with another attempt from the same position less than a minute later as Saints infringed again.
Cipriani added another three points before Myler responded with Saints’ first penalty of the game, narrowing the deficit to three in a stodgy game.
Myler was soon levelling the scores after Saints won a penalty at the breakdown, which came from Luther Burrell chasing his own kick ahead before diving on it outside the 22.
But the Sharks were to bite back before the break as James chipped the ball over Myler and collected it to score a fine try.
Cipriani added the extras to give his side a seven-point lead, and they threatened to extend that advantage in the closing stages of the half, kicking for the corner and turning up the heat.
Saints managed to survive that scare though, giving them hope for the second period.
But that was soon extinguished as Addison did superbly to claim a high ball, with the winger racing in to score.
Cipriani converted and Sale had a big lead, bringing back bad memories of previous games against the Sharks for Saints.
Jamie Gibson looked to have responded, but the flanker was denied a try by the TMO, who deemed the flanker’s foot to be in touch when he dived over the line.
Saints introduced Dylan Hartley and Christian Day in a bid to add some extra power to their pack. And it worked.
The forwards drove towards the line and when the ball came out, a slick move from right to left saw Myler dive over for his side’s first away try of the season.
Myler converted to cut the gap to seven and suddenly Saints started to assert their authority, putting real pressure on Sale, who were being forced to play in their own half.
JJ Hanrahan’s introduction was keeping the Sharks on their toes, with the livewire utility back bringing a sharp running game.
However, Saints just could not break through the Sale line again as the home side showed real resilience.
And Mallinder’s men were almost denied a losing bonus point as Nick Macleod’s penalty a minute from time came back off the left post.
As it was, Saints took a point from a game in which they had plenty of possession, while Sale celebrated their second home win on the spin.
Sale: Haley; Arscott, James, Leota, Addison (Jennings 56); Cipriani (Macleod 75), Cusiter (Stringer 43); Harrison (Flynn 64), Taylor (Briggs 64), Cobilas (Mujati 53); Evans, Mills (Lund 53); Braid (c) (Ostrikov 53), Ioane, Beaumont.
Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi (Hanrahan 59), Burrell, Elliott (Tuala 75); Myler, Fotuali’i (Dickson 59); A Waller (E Waller 59), Haywood (Hartley 50), Brookes (Hill 64); Lawes (Harrison 64), Paterson (Day 50); Gibson, Wood (c), Dickinson.
Referee: Andrew Small