Bournemouth took a significant step towards Premier League survival with a precious 1-0 win which pushed south-coast rivals Southampton closer to relegation.
Marcus Tavernier claimed the Cherries’ second-half winner at a soggy St Mary’s to move the Cherries seven points clear of the drop zone and pile further pressure on the division’s bottom club.
Beleaguered Saints thought they had snatched a dramatic 89th-minute equaliser but Che Adams’ effort was ruled out for offside following a VAR review.
The hosts lacked attacking thrust and urgency for much of a miserable evening as they slipped to a club-record 11th home league defeat of the season following a largely-feeble display.
Ruben Selles’ side, who lost captain James Ward-Prowse to illness at half-time, go into their final five games of a dismal campaign six points from safety and with lingering hopes of survival fading fast.
A painful defeat to their near neighbours stretched Saints’ alarming winless run to eight games to eradicate any positivity generated by Friday’s thrilling 3-3 draw at leaders Arsenal.
Southampton forward Adam Armstrong struck a post early on but, aside from Adams’ disallowed finish, the troubled hosts offered little after falling behind to the 50th-minute goal from Tavernier, who later limped off injured.
Bournemouth made the 30-mile journey east seeking a third-successive away win to increase their cushion on the drop zone and with the prospect of being the region’s top club next term.
Cherries fans wasted little time in taunting their struggling rivals as chants of ‘Oh when the Saints go Championship’ frequently rang around the stadium.
The precariously-placed home team did their best to quell the constant crowing in the early exchanges.
Theo Walcott tested Neto with a low effort early on before Armstrong was kept out by a combination of Bournemouth’s Brazilian goalkeeper and the left post.
Bournemouth’s boisterous away end then thought their side had edged ahead when Cherries left-back Matias Vina thumped home on the rebound in the 18th minute.
But jubilant celebrations in the stands were swiftly cut short due to Dominic Solanke being offside before his initial effort was repelled by recalled Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.
Southampton’s 1-0 win at the Vitality Stadium on October 19 was the club’s final victory under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Saints began the evening having picked up just 13 points from a possible 63 under three different managers in the sixth months since.
They were almost given a helping hand in their quest to enhance that paltry tally when Bournemouth defender Marcos Senesi inadvertently diverted the ball on to the top of his own crossbar following a cross from Kyle Walker-Peters.
Yet the hosts were short of incisiveness in a forgettable first half which ended without major incident and with some jeers from frustrated home supporters.
The pessimistic mood on the terraces was not helped by influential leader Ward-Prowse, who had reportedly been feeling unwell before the game, failing to reappear for the second period.
That bitter pill was quickly compounded by Bournemouth taking the lead with their first attempt on target.
Solanke, who lashed the ball narrowly over in the first half, claimed the assist, releasing Tavernier to cut in from the right and direct a low, deflected effort into the bottom-left corner beyond McCarthy.
Saints defender Jan Bednarek then escaped handball appeals when he blocked Ryan Christie’s cross as the visitors pushed for a second amid upbeat cries of “the Reds are staying up” from their vocal following.
Saints boss Selles threw on Adams for his first appearance in more than a month – due to injury – with 61 minutes played.
That change looked to have paid dividends when the Scotland international swivelled to fire home via the underside of the crossbar a minute from time.
But the effort was subsequently chalked off following intervention from Stockley Park, leaving Bournemouth to celebrate a big victory which exacerbates Southampton’s perilous position