Gareth Bale produced another moment of magic to keep Tottenham on course for next season's Champions League and leave his former club Southampton still uncertain of Premier League survival.
Bale does it again
Bale has scored more goals from outside the box (eight) than any other player in the Premier League this season
With four minutes left, the
PFA Player of the Year
darted infield and, from 25 yards, crashed a rasping shot beyond Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
The result was cruel on Southampton, who created many of the best chances.
Rickie Lambert came closest, striking the post with a first-half free-kick.
But ultimately this was a game decided by one swing of Bale's left boot, a special strike that resulted in his fourth goal in his last five league appearances, as Tottenham legends Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles watched from the stands.
Tottenham 1-0 Southampton: Villas-Boas pleased with second-half
Victory means Spurs remain fifth - two points behind third-placed Arsenal - ahead of a defining week in which they play Chelsea and Stoke City. For Southampton, the defeat leaves them looking nervously behind them with a trip to Sunderland and the visit of Stoke to come.
At the end of a week in which he was named PFA Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Football Writers' Player of the Year, this was billed beforehand as the Welshman's day.
He had his eyes on another landmark against the club where he began his career - becoming the first Spurs player to score 20 league goals in a season since Jurgen Klinnsmann in 1994-95.
But Bale was made to wait, not only by the 30-minute delay to kick-off because of a chemical spill on the M25, but by a diligent and dogged Southampton performance, as they showed further evidence of their continued development under manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Spurs' Premier League run-in
Tactically smart, the visitors' work-rate was also admirable and for much of the first half Bale found he had company wherever he appeared on the field.
Southampton should have been ahead after 11 minutes, when Lambert picked out an attacking surge by Nathaniel Clyne. A lofted pass put the young full-back through on goal, only for his shot to flash inches wide of Hugo Lloris's right-hand post. It was a warning for Spurs, but Southampton were to come closer still as the half wore on.
In his final contribution of the match before a recurrence of a hamstring injury, Mousa Dembele fouled Jay Rodriguez on the edge of the penalty area. Lambert struck the resulting free-kick hard and low, thumping the post after a vital fingertip save by Lloris. Guly Do Prado gathered the loose ball and immediately hooked it back into the penalty area where Steven Davis headed straight at the Tottenham goalkeeper with the goal at his mercy.
The pattern continued after the interval as Adam Lallana skipped away from Michael Dawson, only to scuff his shot when through on goal. But it was to prove costly.
Tottenham 1-0 Southampton: Pochettino - Saints deserved point
Spurs responded by introducing Emmanuel Adebayor and his neat flick put Clint Dempsey through on goal but he could only shoot over. Boruc flapped at a Tom Huddlestone corner late on but the visitors clung on.
Having been subdued and stifled for much of the afternoon, Bale claimed a late penalty as he went down under Jack Cork's clumsy challenge but referee Mark Clattenburg was on hand to wave away the Spurs appeals. the Welshman, though, would not be denied.
Southampton's Premier League run-in
12 May: Sunderland (a)
19 May: Stoke (h)
As the clock ticked towards the 90th minute, Bale drifted wide to the right flank and gathered a pass from Kyle Walker. He surged away from the attentions of Luke Shaw, took one look at goal and unleashed a tremendous low drive that flashed beyond Boruc and into the far corner.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas:
"It was very important. It was difficult to break them down. In the first half, Southampton had the better chances, but we managed to hold on to 0-0 and then in the second half we improved and were much better and created a couple of chances, because Southampton did ever so well. They kept the ball well.
"But we waited, had patience and then managed to score. We have been getting late goals recently and that has been decisive for us. The more you score late on, the more you believe you can turn the games in the last minute and that acts as a motivation for the players."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino:
"We deserved a lot more, we should have got at least a draw - a win would have been well deserved but we go home with nothing. I am disappointed about the result. We have competed very well and played very well, we have controlled the game for large periods and I am happy with the performance of my team but we are really angry because we have not got anything from this game. We are aware we need to get the maximum number of points from the last two games but if we keep performing as we did today, we will not be in any trouble."
Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.
The ball is crossed by Emmanuel Mayuka.
Emmanuel Mayuka takes a shot. Blocked by Michael Dawson.
Kyle Walker provided the assist for the goal.
85:13 Goal scored
Goal! - Gareth Bale - Tottenham 1 - 0 Southamp'n A goal is scored by Gareth Bale from outside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Tottenham 1-0 Southampton.
Corner taken right-footed by Tom Huddlestone, Jan Vertonghen takes a shot. Save by Artur Boruc.
Centre by Jermain Defoe, clearance made by Jason Puncheon.
Gareth Bale takes a shot. Steven Davis gets a block in.
Kyle Walker crosses the ball, clearance made by Jos Hooiveld.
The ball is crossed by Gareth Bale, Jos Hooiveld manages to make a clearance.
Substitution Jason Puncheon joins the action as a substitute, replacing Adam Lallana.
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Tom Huddlestone, Jose Fonte makes a clearance.
Kyle Walker crosses the ball, clearance by Jack Cork.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Emmanuel Adebayor on Jose Fonte. Jose Fonte takes the free kick.
Booking Steven Davis goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.
Steven Davis challenges Jermain Defoe unfairly and gives away a free kick. Kyle Walker restarts play with the free kick.
Corner taken by Adam Lallana.
Centre by Emmanuel Mayuka,
Substitution Clint Dempsey leaves the field to be replaced by Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Booking The referee cautions Benoit Assou-Ekotto for unsporting behaviour.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto handles the ball and concedes a free kick.
Unfair challenge on Artur Boruc by Emmanuel Adebayor results in a free kick. Artur Boruc takes the free kick.
Effort on goal by Clint Dempsey from just inside the penalty area goes over the target.
Jay Rodriguez challenges Gareth Bale unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Centre by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Artur Boruc makes a comfortable save.
The ball is delivered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Steven Davis makes a clearance.
Substitution Emmanuel Mayuka is brought on as a substitute for Guly Do Prado.
The ball is sent over by Gareth Bale, clearance made by Jose Fonte.
The ball is sent over by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Jose Fonte manages to make a clearance.
Shot from long distance by Luke Shaw misses to the right of the target.
Substitution Emmanuel Adebayor is brought on as a substitute for Aaron Lennon.
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Adam Lallana. Adam Lallana takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Gareth Bale.
Adam Lallana takes a shot.
Corner taken by Adam Lallana, Kyle Walker makes a clearance.
Tom Huddlestone concedes a free kick for a foul on Adam Lallana. Rickie Lambert crosses the ball in from the free kick.
Adam Lallana takes a shot. Hugo Lloris makes a comfortable save.
The official flags Clint Dempsey offside. Direct free kick taken by Jose Fonte.
Gareth Bale is caught offside. Artur Boruc takes the free kick.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Lewis Holtby by Jay Rodriguez. Lewis Holtby takes the free kick.
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.
45:00 +2:26 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.
Tom Huddlestone takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Header from deep inside the area by Gareth Bale goes harmlessly over the crossbar.
Corner taken right-footed by Tom Huddlestone.
Clint Dempsey fouled by Jose Fonte, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Jermain Defoe from left wing, Jack Cork manages to make a clearance.
A cross is delivered by Gareth Bale.
The ball is crossed by Gareth Bale.
Foul by Guly Do Prado on Benoit Assou-Ekotto, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jose Fonte by Jermain Defoe. Direct free kick taken by Artur Boruc.
The referee blows for offside against Rickie Lambert. Hugo Lloris restarts play with the free kick.
Rickie Lambert takes a shot. The ball is swung over by Guly Do Prado, Steven Davis takes a shot. Save by Hugo Lloris. Save by Artur Boruc.
Substitution (Tottenham) makes a substitution, with Lewis Holtby coming on for Mousa Dembele.
Foul by Mousa Dembele on Jay Rodriguez, free kick awarded.
Nathaniel Clyne crosses the ball, save by Hugo Lloris.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Guly Do Prado by Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Jose Fonte takes the direct free kick.
The offside flag is raised against Gareth Bale. Free kick taken by Artur Boruc.
Aaron Lennon is ruled offside. Direct free kick taken by Artur Boruc.
Adam Lallana is ruled offside. Michael Dawson restarts play with the free kick.
Guly Do Prado crosses the ball, clearance made by Michael Dawson. Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Adam Lallana, Header by Jay Rodriguez from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.
The ball is swung over by Jermain Defoe, inswinging corner taken right-footed by Tom Huddlestone, Jos Hooiveld manages to make a clearance.
A cross is delivered by Aaron Lennon, Jose Fonte makes a clearance.
Luke Shaw challenges Kyle Walker unfairly and gives away a free kick. Michael Dawson takes the direct free kick.
The referee blows for offside against Clint Dempsey. Jose Fonte takes the free kick.
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Blocked by Tom Huddlestone.
Clint Dempsey fouled by Guly Do Prado, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Tom Huddlestone, Jose Fonte makes a clearance.
The ball is crossed by Nathaniel Clyne, Clint Dempsey manages to make a clearance.
Shot by Nathaniel Clyne from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.
A cross is delivered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Luke Shaw manages to make a clearance.
Unfair challenge on Mousa Dembele by Guly Do Prado results in a free kick. Kyle Walker restarts play with the free kick.
Cross/shot by Jermain Defoe.
Guly Do Prado gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Jan Vertonghen takes the free kick.
Guly Do Prado fouled by Mousa Dembele, the ref awards a free kick. Jack Cork restarts play with the free kick.
Jan Vertonghen challenges Steven Davis unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Adam Lallana from right channel.
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