After victory in each of the opening five games of the season for the first time in their Premiership history, Tigers led 6-3 at half-time as they protected the last unbeaten record in the league against a Sharks side with a strong recent record in the contest.
It had been a cagey opening 40 minutes, with both defences denying any clear-cut opportunities, though Tigers had got off to a strong start with scrum-half Ben Youngs prompting from the breakdown as Nemani Nadolo twice carried through midfield.
But they had to wait for half an hour to make any impression on the scoreboard with Ford kicking his first penalty and then adding another shortly after Kieran Wilkinson had opened his Sharks account.
A wonderfully crafted try for Liebenberg pushed that lead into double figures in the third quarter but it remained a tight contest until Ford added a late penalty to make it 19-6.
Sharks, with wins in each of the last five meetings of the teams and also in their last three visits to Leicester, still had one chance to take at least a point as they scored a try with the clock already beyond 80 minutes. But the missed conversion attempt meant they had to go home empty-handed.
Youngs, Dan Kelly and Calum Green returned to the starting line-up selected by Steve Borthwick who also had Marco van Staden making his home debut and Jasper Wiese on home soil for the first time this season.
World Cup winner Lood de Jager returned for Sharks who also included Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marland Yarde and Ben Curry while Manu Tuilagi played in front of a Mattioli Woods Welford Road crowd for the first time since leaving Tigers in the summer of 2020.
Tigers built early pressure as Youngs and Ford got the backline moving from quick recycle among the forwards and two charges from Nadolo which kept them in the opposition half, but they were met by sound defence.
The roles were reversed as Sharks then built momentum but despite pinning back the Tigers, they were unable to forge an opening, even from a penalty into the right-hand corner earned after trademark work on the floor by flanker Tom Curry.
As half-time approached, both teams were subject to the referee’s whistle and a block by Byron McGuigan on Nadolo as the wing chased a teasing kick from Ford finally gave Tigers the opening they had been looking for as the penalty set up a lineout drive on the left.
Although Julián Montoya, so often a scorer from there, eventually got to the tryline, he was penalised after bouncing to his feet from a tackle and the score was disallowed.
The opening points did come just after the half-hour when Ford landed a 35-metre penalty following a high tackle on Ellis Genge.
That advantage did not last long, as Wilkinson kicked a penalty for Sharks from in front of the posts, but when the whistle went again as Jasper Wiese was impeded in trying to present the ball, Ford landed a kick from the 10-metre line to give his side a 6-3 lead they held at the break.
An error from Sharks at the restart gave Tigers an early platform but, just as they looked to pick up pace in possession, Jean-Luc du Preez got on the ball at the breakdown and referee Dickson whistled in Sharks’ favour.
The opening try of the afternoon was well worth waiting for on 50 minutes as Liebenberg finished an enterprising move which began back in the Tigers half.
A big scrum push gained a penalty award but Tigers carried on playing with the advantage and Wiese’s clever offload put Youngs away on the right. The scrum-half manufactured space for Liebenberg by drawing in the defence, but the flanker still had to outstrip the final defenders and score in the corner. Ford added the conversion for good measure and a 13-3 lead.
Wilkinson and Ford traded penalties again – with the Tigers fly-half landing a beauty from the left touchline – as the scoreline reached 16-6 just before the hour.
Opportunities remained at a premium but, with 10 minutes remaining, Tigers were eventually able to break out again as Nadolo scooped up loose ball on his own 22 and released Harry Potter on the right. His kick ahead had Tom Curtis back on his own line where he was met by the chasing Steward and forced to dot down in-goal.
From the scrum, George Martin picked up at No8 and was met with a rugged challenge from Rohan Jense van Rensberg, though the referee said there had been no foul play after checking the replays.
Tigers remained camped in Sharks territory and another scrum brought a penalty which gave Ford the chance to calm any nerves with another three-pointer and a 13-point lead with just a couple of minutes left to play.
But Sharks still had an opportunity to claim something from the day from a series of penalties on the left. When hooker Curtis Langdon finished a driving maul with a try, fellow replacement Tom Curtis dragged his kick wide of the left-hand post with the clock already dead.