Drama ensued at the AJ Bell Stadium as Greig Laidlaw's late penalty earned Gloucester an 11-9 victory to end Sale Sharks' unbeaten Premiership home record and all but curtail their play-off ambitions.
Sale headed into the contest needing a win and a Worcester Warriors victory over Leicester Tigers on Saturday to take their top-four hopes into the final round of the regular season.
It appeared as though they had done enough to keep up their part of the bargain, but the hosts were pinged at the scrum and the nerveless Laidlaw nailed his kick to end Sale's domestic home record and leave them five points adrift of the Tigers with only one game to go.
Victory keeps Gloucester's chances of a top-six finish - and European Champions Cup qualification - intact, while the hosts' are now facing a tough battle to ensure a place at Europe's top table.
Scotland captain Laidlaw traded penalties with Sale's Danny Cipriani as the teams went in 6-6 at half-time.
Johnny Leota's try in the 54th minute gave Sale a five-point advantage, but Laidlaw brought the score back within two with his third penalty.
And there was time for one further twist when Laidlaw nailed one more kick with four minutes remaining.