A second-half hat-trick from Francois Hougaard was not enough for Worcester Warriors as they fell agonisingly short against Sale Sharks in a thrilling Gallagher Premiership clash at Sixways, losing 32-35.

Despite being behind for 68 minutes, Sale scored second-half tries through Byron McGuigan, Arron Reed, Coenie Oosthuizen and Daniel Du Preez, adding to the first-half score from centre Connor Doherty, to leave Worcester with the maximum five points.

Hougaard's second-half treble meant Warriors take two points from the fixture, having managed four tries and for coming within seven points of their opponents.

The visitors had held a 10-point margin with three minutes to play but a 79th minute score from Hougaard, his third, teed up a dramatic finale.

The impressive full-back Jamie Shillcock scored the team's other try, a super solo effort on 25 minutes, and despite a total individual haul of 17 points, Warriors were left devastated at full-time with their 14th straight Premiership defeat.

Warriors matched their powerful opponents for the majority of the first-half and despite a relatively quiet opening 15 minutes, Shillcock nailed a long-distance penalty from 45 metres to open the scoring, 3-0.

The pick of the tries came five minutes later as the Worcester full-back showed a full compliment of skills during a wonderful solo try.

Alex Hearle fielded a cross-kick from fly-half Fin Smith on the far side and managed to lob the ball back in play to Shillcock, on his own 10-metre line, before he showed a clean pair of heels to Sharks' winger McGuigan before chipping over full-back Simon Hammersley. He gathered the ball and crossed the line, much to the delight of those lucky enough to be in the stadium to witness it.

Shillcock added three points from the tee to extend the lead to 11-0 before Sale finally got themselves on the board with 32 minutes on the clock.

Sharks huffed and puffed and a series of penalties against Warriors forced the hosts backwards before centre Connor Doherty crashed through the defensive line and over the line.

However, the visitors headed into the sheds a man down right on the stroke of half-time as winger Arron Reed was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on as Warriors looked to get the ball wide.

Shillcock missed a relatively easy kick to extend the lead so the scores remained11-7 at half-time.

It took just four minutes for the hosts to make the most of their man advantage when Alex Hearle scooped up a loose ball before going clear into the Sale 22 and gifting Francois Hougaard an easy run in for his first of the day.

The conversion was good from Shillcock and a nine-point lead was established.

The visitors got themselves back into it, despite being a man light still, when winger Byron McGuigan dotted down in the corner after Sharks battered away at the Worcester line for a couple of minutes. The conversion from MacGinty was good and it was now a four point game.

The away side were back up to the full compliment when Reed returned before a big turning point in the game when Ollie Lawrence had a try disallowed.

Referee Christophe Ridley spent a while looking at the footage on the big screen before coming to the conclusion it was double-movement and the score was cancelled out.

Sale seemed buoyed by call and with 12 minutes to go a set-piece move from a lineout on the 22 saw Tom Curry cut through the gap before a pop back inside to Arron Reed, who went under the posts.

MacGinty added the conversion and they took the lead for the first time.

Sale had their tails up now and the bonus-point try was scored by Sharks' a few minutes later when replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen battered his way over from close range.

Warriors were not done yet, however. Lawrence did well down the right to make the most of the overlap and after tip-toeing along the touchline, he offloaded back inside to Hougaard who collected and scored to make it 25-28.

The dramatic ending looked to have been squashed when Daniel du Preez crashed over with three minutes left but Hougaard finished off a fine Worcester move to make it 32-35.

The home side tried to run from deep and almost succeeded but the late penalty ended matters as all players dropped to their knees after a fantastic 80 minutes of rugby.

Final score: Worcester Warriors 32 Sale Sharks 35