Southampton showed their spirit to overcome a first-half sending-off for the second successive match, this time booking their place in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round as a result.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhüttl hailed his side’s effort and belief after the battling 1-1 draw with Tottenham in the Premier League, and this engaging tie at Swansea followed a similar pattern.
Nathan Redmond stroked the visitors into an early lead, but the dismissal of Yan Valery on 29 minutes changed the complexion of the game at a time when Saints were in control.
Swansea pressed more and more as time ticked on and eventually levelled things up through top scorer Joël Piroe 13 minutes from time, before the Dutchman was thwarted by a crucial Fraser Forster save at the death.
Cue extra time, and Saints might have felt down and out when Forster was beaten by his own man, Jan Bednarek, but substitutes Shane Long and Mohamed Elyounoussi instantly combined for the latter to score.
That was far from the end of Long’s contribution, as the Irishman completed the turnaround in the 102nd minute, scoring his first Saints goal in nearly two years to settle it.
Hasenhüttl made five changes to his side for Saints’ first game in 11 days, though it is worth remembering that some of those left out against Tottenham last time out have been regular starters this season.
Jack Stephens, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Tella, Nathan Redmond and Armando Broja were the quintet restored to starting duty in a strong-looking line-up at the expense of Mohammed Salisu (suspended) and Kyle Walker-Peters (Covid), as well as the trio of Ibrahima Diallo, Adam Armstrong and Long, who were all among the substitutes.
Swansea, playing their instantly-recognisable possession-heavy style, started brightly, with Valery going into the book inside the first couple of minutes for a mistimed lunge, before Liam Walsh flashed a shot past the post from distance.
But the hosts’ confident start was undone when their patient build-up play proved to be their undoing, as Tella intercepted a stray pass and threaded the ball through for Redmond, who kept his head to finish confidently, slotting the ball beyond Ben Hamer’s left hand in the Swansea goal.
Suddenly Saints were in complete control. James Ward-Prowse clipped a clever free-kick over the top that exposed Swansea’s high defensive line, allowing Tella to steal in and fire over via a deflection from a position of promise.
Saints’ attacking players were causing all sorts of problems. Broja sneaked in behind but was dispossessed in the nick of time, before Redmond darted down the left side of the box and crossed dangerously, forcing Ryan Bennett to deal with the danger and risk an own goal in the process.
The only blot on Saints’ copybook was that early yellow card, which came back to haunt them when Valery pulled back former teammate Michael Obafemi in full flight, giving the referee no option but to send him off before the half-hour mark.
Walsh sent the resulting free-kick over the crossbar, but the damage was done from Hasenhüttl’s point of view, as the boss responded by shifting Ward-Prowse to right-back and Stuart Armstrong to central midfield. Redmond and Tella provided the width in a 4-4-1 formation that allowed Swansea’s full complement to gain some momentum in the tie.
The visitors did well to restrict their hosts to harmless shots from distance, while Tella and Broja temporarily escaped their markers on the break, sending centre-back pairing Ryan Bennett and Brandon Cooper into the book.
Whilst Swansea were struggling to create, Hasenhüttl would have wanted his depleted team to be more proactive after the break.
Saints’ Achilles’ heel this season has been converting leads into wins, and a second goal continued to elude them even after Broja bore down on goal from a tight angle, as his attempted cutback for Tella had too much pace on it for the winger to convert.
Then Oriol Romeu was caught by Walsh, inviting Ward-Prowse to send in a teasing delivery begging to be converted by the unmarked Stephens at the far post, but he could only head the ball wide as another golden opportunity passed Saints by.
Wary of the extra energy being exerted by his players, Hasenhüttl freshened up the 10 men by introducing Diallo and Adam Armstrong in place of Redmond and Stuart Armstrong midway through the second period, as Swansea began to push again.
Thirteen minutes later, the duo were joined by Elyounoussi and Long, as Tella and Broja departed, but by that time Swansea had their goal.
Right-back Kyle Naughton played a neat one-two, surged into the box and squared the ball across goal for top scorer Piroe to rifle gleefully into the roof of the net from close range, 13 minutes from time.
With a spring in their step, the Swans came back for more. Matt Grimes hit a stinging shot from distance that was parried by Forster only to Liam Cullen, whose follow-up was tame.
At the other end, Romain Perraud’s rather scuffed cross still found its target in Long, who waited for the contact from behind and went to ground, but what would ordinarily be punished outside the penalty area isn’t always given inside, and Saints’ appeals were ignored.
But it was Forster who came to the visitors’ aid in the final minute of normal time, when Piroe escaped through the middle and went eye to eye with the keeper, who stood tall and made a critical save with his trailing leg to force extra time.
By now Swansea were looking the more likely winners, and the home side went in front for the first time four minutes into extra time, as Olivier Ntcham’s driven low cross was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Bednarek, who could not sort his feet out quickly enough.
Just as Saints must have been fearing the worst, they rallied to equalise within a minute of the restart, as this increasingly dramatic cup tie took another turn.
Ever the optimist, Long did well to keep the ball alive on the right side of the box and picked out fellow substitute Elyounoussi with a low ball gratefully accepted by the Norwegian, who took a touch to steady himself and calmly levelled things up.
This response from the 10 men in extra time was admirable, and now that Saints had the momentum again they were determined to make it count.
Ward-Prowse, for too long pinned back in his own half, found space to deliver a peach of a cross for Long to score his first Saints goal since February 2020.
Still there was time for more drama before the extra-time interval, as Yan Dhanda sent Forster stooping to his left, before Ntcham dragged the rebound wide.
Thankfully, from a Saints point of view, the second period was rather less dramatic, and a Swansea side who last played on December 11th were finally out of puff.