Ché Adams scored the only goal of the game as Southampton battled hard for a much-needed first win in six matches, ending Bournemouth’s unbeaten run in the process.
The striker took his tally to five for the season in all competitions with a perfectly placed ninth-minute header from Romain Perraud’s enticing cross.
There was still a long way to go at that point, and Saints were left with plenty of defending to do in the second half – even before an injury to Kyle Walker-Peters left them depleted on the right flank – but this was an honest, old-school display of grit and determination that ended the Cherries’ six-match unbeaten run – the longest in the Premier League at kick-off.
Ralph Hasenhüttl made one enforced change to his starting line-up, with Duje Ćaleta-Car replacing the injured Armel Bella-Kotchap at the heart of the Saints defence – just as he did in the latter stages of the first half against West Ham at St Mary’s three days prior.
This was a game that started at breakneck speed, with both sides committed to getting on the attack, and it would come as no surprise when the deadlock was broken early on.
Mohamed Elyounoussi was the architect, patiently carrying the ball along the 18-yard line before seeking out Perraud on the left, whose first-time cross was met with a thumping header from Adams, who directed it expertly into the far corner from 12 yards.
It means the striker moves on to five goals for the season, three of which have come in the Premier League.
At the other end, after Perraud picked up an early booking, Gavin Bazunu was called upon for the first time, brilliantly tipping over a sharp shot on the turn from Philip Billing, though the offside flag was subsequently raised in any case, leaving Saints relieved they would not have to face the resulting corner and Bazunu aggrieved his flying save would count for nothing.
Another set-piece sent Bazunu sprawling down to his right to deny Jefferson Lerma‘s downward header, but Saints were carrying a threat of their own on the counter-attack, with the pace and running power of Adam Armstrong and Joe Aribo particularly prominent.
It was Aribo who was Saints’ most advanced player when Walker-Peters embarked on a typical surge to the byline, playing the ball across goal for the former Rangers man, but he was stretching to reach it and unable to get the necessary power to beat goalkeeper Neto.
Billing, meanwhile, traditionally a deep-lying midfielder, has been pushed forward by interim head coach Gary O’Neil and increased his goal threat, which was evident again when Bazunu was sent diving to his right to repel another rasping drive, this time from long range.
Whilst the chances dried up late in the half, the competitive nature did not, as Hasenhüttl vented his frustration on the touchline at one soft free-kick awarded in Bournemouth’s favour, before Chris Mepham lunged in on Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The Saints man had already run off the pitch in trying to keep the ball in play when the defender caught him with an ugly lunge – a cheap shot that prompted Maitland-Niles to react, both players to square up to each other and referee John Brooks to dish out a yellow card apiece.
Mepham would have made himself even more unpopular with the noisy travelling Saints fans had he headed in Lewis Cook’s inswinging corner at the start of the second half, but the Welshman sent the chance wide from a very presentable opening.
Saints were struggling to deal with Bournemouth’s dead balls, with Dominic Solanke the next man guilty of failing to hit the target from another teasing Cook delivery from the same side.
Hasenhüttl’s response to growing aerial pressure was to switch to three at the back, sacrificing Aribo from the attack as Lyanco entered the fray to bolster the defence 20 minutes into the second half.
But no sooner had Saints changed system than Walker-Peters pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem, forcing another reshuffle, as Elyounoussi slotted into an unlikely right wing-back role, with Stuart Armstrong coming on to fill the void in midfield.
Whilst Bazunu remained largely untroubled since the break, Saints were struggling to sustain attacks as the home crowd roared their team forward.
The locals became increasingly restless when Junior Stanislas’s driven cross struck Mohammed Salisu’s arm, but the defender was sliding to block the ball and could not have avoided the contact if he tried. Thankfully, VAR agreed.
It was the unwavering fight of Adams that kept the Bournemouth backline honest, as the goalscorer continued to win balls he was never favourite to reach, and maintained possession even in the most trying circumstances to relieve the pressure on his teammates.
His industry was nearly rewarded with another goal from another Perraud assist, as the Frenchman’s cutback was belted goalwards but straight into the chest of Bournemouth captain Adam Smith, before Elyounoussi’s composure deserted him on the follow-up.
There was one more chance for Saints to ease the pressure on themselves inside five added minutes, only for substitute Moussa Djenepo to shoot tamely at Neto, but by that time Salisu had been called upon to make a crucial clearance in his own six-yard box as crosses rained down on Bazunu’s goalmouth, but there was no way through Saints’ stubborn resistance.