There was a sense of déjà vu for Southampton as Wolves mounted a second-half comeback to snatch three points at St Mary’s for the second season running.
It was in January 2020 that Saints saw a two-goal lead at the interval wiped out by a resurgent Wolves side, and 13 months later the visitors were similarly ruthless, this time overturning a 1-0 deficit with two second-half strikes.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team were good value for their half-time advantage, given to them by a stunning Danny Ings volley on 25 minutes.
But Wolves were awoken from their slumber by a shock penalty decision, as Ryan Bertrand was penalised for handling Nelson Semedo’s shot at point-blank range.
Up stepped Ruben Neves to equalise from the spot, before Pedro Neto struck the winner from a tight angle midway through a second period completely at odds with what had come before.
Saints boss Hasenhüttl recalled Alex McCarthy, Jannik Vestergaard and Takumi Minamino in place of Fraser Forster, Mohammed Salisu and Moussa Djenepo, who dropped to the bench.
Wolves called upon six players who did not start Thursday’s Emirates FA Cup tie, as Nuno Espirito Santo reverted to his strongest possible line-up.
It was the visitors who carved out the first opportunities, but neither Willian Jose’s header from a free-kick nor Joao Moutinho’s sliced half-volley ever looked like troubling McCarthy.
Then Nathan Redmond, again operating in a central role as the closest support for Ings, led a breakaway and fed Minamino to his left, who forced a stooping save from Rui Patricio, although a late offside flag would have put paid to the attack in any case.
Saints’ front two were instrumental in creating a chance that would have counted when Redmond squared the ball for Ings, who seemed to have taken too long to shoot, instead laying the ball off for his partner to send a curling shot towards the bottom corner that needed a fingertip touch around the post from Patricio.
If Ings was guilty of too many touches on that occasion, he was not about to make the same mistake in volleying Saints in front on 25 minutes.
Stuart Armstrong, so often influential in creating chances, dribbled purposefully down the left all the way to the byeline, where he crossed for the striker to meet emphatically in his stride, burying a brilliant volley into the far corner from 12 yards. Pure class.
Wolves had offered nothing as an attacking force since those two early sighters, with Vestergaard’s presence at the back bringing an air of calm, as Hasenhüttl’s preferred back four started a game together for the first time since mid-December.
Saints’ counter-attacking threat remained an area of concern for the visitors. When Neto appeared to handle the ball by the touchline, James Ward-Prowse was not distracted, picked his pocket and found Ings with an early ball. When the goalscorer crossed for Redmond, the move deserved a better finish.
Wolves have struggled for goals in the absence of talisman Raul Jimenez, sidelined by a severe head injury since November, but began the second half with a spring in their step, helped by a controversial penalty awarded in their favour.
Vestergaard had already made an important block from Neto before Semedo found space on the right, hitting a shot against Bertrand from close range.
Whether he had time to react or not did not seem to enter the thought process of the officials, as referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot and VAR opted against overturning the decision.
Up stepped Neves to put McCarthy the wrong way and drag his team level eight minutes into the second half.
Saints responded well, as Redmond darted into the box to tee up Armstrong, whose shot was deflected wide, but Wolves had raised their level.
Neves tested McCarthy’s handling with a dipping volley, before Moutinho’s wicked free-kick required a last-ditch intervention from Jan Bednarek with gold shirts rushing in.
Hasenhüttl made his first change when Minamino’s home debut was cut short just after the hour mark, as Djenepo entered the fray to play wide on the Saints left.
But it was down that side that Neto weaved some magic to turn the game on its head with a fine solo goal, skipping past Vestergaard and curling a shot into the far corner when he had little to aim at from such a tight angle.
Hasenhüttl responded with two more changes, albeit only one through choice, as Ché Adams replaced Armstrong before Walker-Peters hobbled off injured, prompting a switch to a back three and a home debut for Salisu on the left side of it, as Djenepo and Bertrand were deployed as wing-backs for the 20 minutes that remained.
Adams was lively in the closing stages, denied by Patricio when following up Ward-Prowse’s parried shot before throwing himself at a Redmond cross, only to send his diving header wide of goal from eight yards.
Hasenhüttl and his team will rightly feel hard done by, but it’s now six league defeats in succession, as Saints remain stranded on 29 points.