Southampton suffered late heartbreak at Tottenham Hotspur, as a 90th-minute penalty from Son Heung-Min handed them a 2-1 defeat in north London.
A Danny Ings header on 30 minutes had set Saints on course for what would have been a first victory at Spurs in five years, only for Gareth Bale to net against his former club in the second half, before Son converted from 12 yards in the dying stages to put a cruel finish on what had been an encouraging performance from the visitors.
The result keeps Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side 14th in the standings, with Saints still nine points clear of the bottom three ahead of their final six games of the season.
Following Sunday’s semi-final defeat to Leicester, Hasenhüttl made five changes for the game.
Youngster Nathan Tella was handed a start, Theo Walcott returned and Ché Adams was chosen as strike partner to Ings. Elsewhere, Ryan Bertrand missed out through injury, meaning Mohammed Salisu took his place at left-back, while Alex McCarthy replaced Fraser Forster in goal.
That all prompted a slight shuffling of Stuart Armstrong, who dropped back into a deeper midfield position alongside James Ward-Prowse, with Ibrahima Diallo beginning the evening on the bench.
Spurs, under the guidance of caretaker Ryan Mason, who was in charge for the first time following this week’s dismissal of José Mourinho, made three changes ahead of their trip to Wembley this Sunday for the League Cup final against Manchester City.
Saints Academy graduate Bale returned to the starting line-up against his former club, replacing the absent Harry Kane, while Giovani Lo Celso and Lucas Moura were brought in for Joe Rodon and Moussa Sissoko.
Having gone a full 90 minutes in last weekend’s semi-final without registering a shot on target, it would have been pleasing for Hasenhüttl that it didn’t even take Southampton two minutes here to generate one. What was less satisfying for him was that they were unable to take advantage of it.
After a free-kick was played short to Tella wide on the left, the winger cut back onto his right foot and curled in a glorious cross from a deep position, which found the head of Salisu only a few yards out. Unfortunately for Saints, though, his header was straight at Hugo Lloris, who parried the ball away. However, it only got as far as the edge of the six-yard box, where Adams was waiting for what was an equally golden opportunity, but he too volleyed directly at the keeper, who turned his effort away as well.
Still, it was an encouraging start from the visitors, who had another big opportunity on 13 minutes.
This time it came from Jan Bednarek’s angled pass from the halfway line, as his low ball searched for the run of Kyle Walker-Peters in behind. Spurs defender Sergio Reguilón slid in an attempt to intercept the ball, but only got a slight touch on it, which allowed Walker-Peters to pounce on it inside the area, yet he couldn’t sort his feet out in time and Lloris scrambled out to smother his eventual effort.
But Saints would finally get the lead their play deserved, as they made the breakthrough on the half-hour mark.
It came via a Ward-Prowse corner, as the captain whipped in a sharp delivery at head height, with Ings meeting it about ten yards out at the near post area and glancing a header which flashed past Lloris and bounced in off the far post.
And it could have been 2-0 seven minutes later, as Walcott drove towards the box and struck an effort that deflected off Toby Alderweireld, only to loop just wide of the far post.
At the other end, McCarthy would finish the first half without having been tested, although Lucas Moura will have been kicking himself for missing a fine opportunity in the closing moments, as he blazed well over from 10 yards after Son had turned a Serge Aurier cross back across goal and into his path.
But it would have been incredibly harsh on Saints had they not gone into the interval with at least a one-goal advantage.
McCarthy was eventually forced into action in the 54th minute, as Bale cut inside onto his left foot and sent a swerving shot goalwards from 25 yards, but it was too central and the Saints keeper was able to make the save.
Shortly afterwards, Ings also fired in an effort from outside the area, but it too was straight down the middle, allowing Lloris to get behind it and gather.
That would be the striker’s last involvement of the night as he was withdrawn in the 58th minute, walking off slightly gingerly before having ice strapped to his hamstring, as Diallo replaced him.
The midfielder slotted in alongside Ward-Prowse, as Armstrong moved up the pitch alongside Adams.
If losing Ings was one disappointment, a second was to follow on 60 minutes, as Spurs levelled the game.
Typically, it was Bale who converted against his former club, curling inside the far post from the corner of the six-yard box after he had collected the rebound from a Moura shot that had been well blocked by Salisu.
Hasenhüttl then made his second change of the evening, removing Walcott and sending on Moussa Djenepo, before Mason responded by introducing Harry Winks for Tanguy Ndombele as the game entered its final 20 minutes.
On 74 minutes, it looked as though Spurs had turned the game on its head, only for a VAR review to lead to a Son Heung-Min strike being ruled out.
The Tottenham forward had converted smartly from a Reguilón square pass, with a low shot into the bottom corner from about 12 yards, but referee David Coote was prompted to look at the pitchside monitor after a VAR check, and he decided that Moura, who was in an offside position but did not touch the ball, had interfered with McCarthy’s line of sight and therefore chalked the goal off.
A second Spurs change then saw Erik Lamela sent on for Lo Celso ahead of the final ten minutes, before Bale was withdrawn for Steven Bergwijn, with the hosts looking the more threatening at this point.
Hasenhüttl made his final swap with six minutes to go, as Tella was replaced following another positive outing by Nathan Redmond.
But there was to be late heartbreak in the 90th minute for the visitors, as, following another VAR review, a Djenepo foul on Reguilón – which had initially been ruled outside the box – was confirmed to have been on the line, allowing Son the opportunity to score from the spot, and he duly took full advantage, going the opposite way to McCarthy and earning the hosts all three points.