Alex Sanderson reflected on a “nerve-wracking” night after his Sale Sharks team reached the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals for a second successive season.

Sale overcame wing Arron Reed’s first-half red card to beat Bristol 35-29 in a last-16 second-leg thriller.

It gave Sale a 44-39 aggregate success and means they will play Racing 92 or Stade Francais in Paris next month.

Reed was sent off for a shoulder-led challenge to the head of his opposite number Luke Morahan six minutes before the break, and Sale played part of the second half with 13 men following prop Nick Schonert’s sin-binning.

But the Sharks prevailed, and rugby director Sanderson said: “I did guarantee a better performance than last week, and I think we had it from both sides.

“It was a pleasure to be part of, as nerve-wracking as it was.

“The bench had a real impact and we knew we had to maintain the dominance of the scrum and the maul, which we did.

“To lose an extra man against a side like Bristol with (Charles) Piutau and (Semi) Radradra, we were always going to chase shadows for a while so getting back to 14 men felt like a win.

“There was a lot of effort, a bit of tactics and mostly heart.

“We play at our best with our backs against the wall and the only space is to fight. We can go anywhere and win.”

On the red card, Sanderson added: “Arron is not a dirty player by any stretch. He has worked hard on his defence.

“He is properly gutted, and we will pull him and pull him tight. I don’t think we will ever see that off him again.

“It was one of those things, mistimed, and Morahan came in off his right, but there is no shame on Arron.”

Bristol scored 14 points while Sale were two players down as they tried to erase a 24-3 deficit, which they eventually managed in a rollercoaster encounter before the Sharks closed out the game magnificently.

Tries from lock Lood de Jager, hooker Akker van der Merwe and fit-again wing Tom Roebuck rocked Bristol as Sale surged clear.

The Bears hit back with tries from Morahan, replacement hooker Harry Thacker and captain Joe Joyce, while Sheedy booted a penalty and three conversions.

But Sale fly-half Robert du Preez finished with three conversions and three penalties as he landed decisive 63rd and 73rd-minute strikes before Jono Ross’ clinching try, as Morahan’s late score proved in vain.