Southampton were well beaten by a resurgent Newcastle United side, as Saints were made to pay for spurning two golden chances to equalise at St Mary’s.
The visitors edged in front after 35 minutes of an even first half, as in-form winger Miguel Almirón extended his scoring streak at Saints’ expense.
But it was the two opportunities either side of half time for Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ché Adams that will give the pair sleepless nights, as the Norwegian steered the ball wide from close range, arriving at pace at the far post, before the unmarked Ché Adams sent a volley off target from 12 yards with another chance to draw level.
In the blink of an eye, Saints were 3-0 down, as Chris Wood and Joe Willock rubbed salt into the wounds of a beaten home team.
Saints did pull one back through a very smart finish from Romain Perraud, but Bruno Guimarães completed the scoring for a rampant Newcastle side, who climbed to third in the Premier League table.
Ralph Hasenhüttl made four changes to his side, including a first Premier League start since Boxing Day last year for Theo Walcott, who returned to lead a two-pronged attack alongside Adams.
Elsewhere, Armel Bella-Kotchap returned to partner Mohammed Salisu at centre-back, with Juan Larios selected at right-back and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the middle of midfield.
That meant the quartet of Duje Ćaleta-Car, Lyanco, Ibrahima Diallo and Joe Aribo all dropped to the bench in a considerable overhaul from the 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace last time out – Saints’ first in four matches.
Newcastle have only been on the wrong end of one result all season – a last-gasp loss at Anfield back in August – but that did not stop Saints taking the game to the visitors early on.
Hasenhüttl’s team looked a threat down the left flank, with Elyounoussi and Perraud regularly combining well, and the Frenchman was the first to test Nick Pope with a low right-footed shot from the edge of the box that had to be tipped behind for a corner.
At the other end, Gavin Bazunu was having a difficult time, as a couple of crosses temporarily eluded his grasp before a scuffed clearance forced himself into a save from Sean Longstaff with Saints exposed, but Callum Wilson was flagged offside in the build-up.
Next to escape in behind the backline was Almirón, who claimed a penalty when he attempted to jink inside Salisu and played the ball on to the defender’s arm, but no one could argue it was an unnatural position, and referee Stuart Attwell remained unmoved.
With Newcastle beginning to build momentum, Saints’ cause was not helped by an injury to Larios that forced the Spaniard off the field after 34 minutes.
That prompted a tactical reshuffle, as Roméo Lavia made his return after more than two months on the sidelines, slotting into midfield as Maitland-Niles shuffled over to right-back.
No sooner had the action restarted than Saints found themselves behind, as Wilson touched the ball back for Almirón to surge towards the penalty area, where he got the better of Maitland-Niles rather too easily before calmly slotting home the opener. That’s seven goals in seven games for the red-hot Paraguayan.
Not content with their lead, the visitors were soon back on the attack, as chief orchestrator Guimarães spread the play to Jacob Murphy wide on the left, whose cross was headed over by the flying figure of Sean Longstaff.
Saints’ best chance of the half arrived in stoppage time at the end of a sweeping team move that deserved a finish from Mohamed Elyounoussi, who must be wondering how he didn’t equalise.
Adams’s cute backheel released Maitland-Niles, before Stuart Armstrong delivered a peach of a ball across the six-yard box, with Elyounoussi arriving at a rate of knots at the back post, only to skew the chance off target from no more than four yards.
With Gareth Southgate in attendance, the England manager would have had his heart in his mouth when Kieran Trippier pulled up injured, but the right-back did reemerge for the second half – unlike Wilson, whose World Cup aspirations will be hampered by his early withdrawal, presumably injury or illness related.
Saints began the second period in the ascendancy, as James Ward-Prowse tested England teammate Pope with a fizzing free-kick, before Elyounoussi’s ambitious strike from distance just dipped too late, but did underline his confidence in spite of the first-half miss.
Another chance of comparable quality arrived at the feet of Adams ten minutes into the half, as Sven Botman gifted possession to Walcott, who carried the ball deep into Newcastle territory, before Elyounoussi’s cross perfectly picked out Adams, who was primed to score on the volley, but his shot sailed agonisingly wide of Pope’s right-hand post with the keeper rooted.
With the rain teeming down at St Mary’s, the mood was about to get worse as Saints were made to pay for passing up two golden opportunities.
Instead, Newcastle showed how it should be done with two clinical finishes in the space of four minutes either side of the hour to take the game away from Hasenhüttl’s men.
First, Chris Wood swivelled smartly to score with a low shot on the turn, before Joe Willock raced clear of Saints’ wide open defence, latching on to Trippier’s pass and finishing with the utmost composure, low past Gavin Bazunu’s outstretched left hand.
Cue a triple change from Hasenhüttl, who introduced Aribo, Adam Armstrong and Samuel Edozie in a bid to turn the tide, but Saints were unable to break down the Premier League’s meanest defence until Perraud tiptoed into the box and found the top corner in the 89th minute, only for Guimarães to have the final say in stoppage time with a well-placed 20-yard shot.