Southampton remained at the foot of the Premier League table, as they were edged out by West Ham United at London Stadium.
With the teams heading into the game 20th and 19th respectively in the standings, there was clearly plenty of weight attached to the contest, but it was not to be for Saints, as a 25th-minute header from Nayef Aguerd gave the hosts the win.
The result leaves Rubén Sellés’s team still three points from safety with nine matches remaining in their season, as they now return to St Mary’s for back-to-back home fixtures, against Manchester City and Crystal Palace.
There were two changes from the side that drew 3-3 with Tottenham ahead of the international break, both enforced, as Sellés was without injured duo Armel Bella-Kotchap and Ché Adams. In place of them came Duje Ćaleta-Car and Sékou Mara, while Mohammed Salisu was also absent from the squad through injury.
Each side probed away at the opposing defence in the opening minutes, only to be limited to promising moments rather than chances of any substance. In fact, it took until the 17th minute for the first shot to arrive, Theo Walcott turning and firing a left-footed effort wide of the near post from inside the corner of the box after Kyle Walker-Peters found him with a low pass.
The visiting Saints fans certainly were the happier with their team’s start, with consternation brewing among the home support as the game meandered past the midway point of the first half without an effort on goal from the hosts.
When one did finally arrive, though, it brought the breakthrough.
Ćaleta-Car was penalised not far inside his own half for a foul on Jarrod Bowen, with Thilo Kehrer’s free-kick looping high and in behind the Saints defence, where Aguerd rose to plant a header back across Gavin Bazunu and into the corner.
It took a lengthy VAR check for the goal to be confirmed, with a clutch of West Ham players in offside positions, only for it to be determined that, crucially, Aguerd was onside by the narrowest of margins.
Saints, to their credit, went close to equalising immediately, as a Mohamed Elyounoussi cutback from the left fell into the path of Romain Perraud in the area, but his low shot towards the far corner was brilliantly tipped wide by the diving Łukasz Fabiański.
Shortly after, Elyounoussi had a big impact at the other end, tracking back to snuff out a potentially huge chance for West Ham, with a long ball in behind having picked out the run of Kehrer, only for the Saints player to chase him and the ball down to avert the danger.
With the lead in their possession, the home side were beginning to look a little more confident, and Saïd Benrahma went fairly close on 37 minutes with a shot from 20 yards that whistled a yard over the bar.
After Elyounoussi created another chance with a driving run into the area from the left side and a cross that just eluded Mara, Ćaleta-Car went into the book for a foul on Bowen, this time deep in West Ham’s half, as referee Paul Tierney dished out the first card of the day.
As the game went into three added minutes at the end of the half, Bowen was at the centre of the next big moment, cutting onto his right foot just inside the area and bending a shot towards the far top corner, only for it to come back off the bar, ensuring Saints at least only trailed by one at the break.
There were no changes in personnel from either team at half-time, but Sellés only waited about eight minutes into the second half before altering things, sending on Charly Alcaraz and Kamaldeen in place of Mara and Elyounoussi.
Kamaldeen quickly caused some issues for West Ham, helping to win the ball back in their half before driving into the area and sending a low shot wide of the near post.
Roméo Lavia then went close in the 63rd minute, as a corner fell to him on the edge of the box, with his low shot through a crowd almost catching out Fabiański, but the West Ham keeper was able to get down to the ball in time. Moments later, Fabiański was again called into action, keeping out a low, bouncing shot from Alcaraz.
West Ham’s first change followed, as two former Saints players swapped places, Michail Antonio coming on for Danny Ings, and another came soon after, as Flynn Downes replaced Tomáš Souček. In between, Jan Bednarek had also produced an important block to deny Bowen, after he worked the ball onto his left foot in space on the edge of the area.
With 20 minutes remaining, Saints sent Paul Onuachu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles on, as Walcott and Stuart Armstrong made way.
Bazunu had to be alert soon after, as Benrahma was fouled outside the corner of the box by Bednarek, who received a booking for the challenge, with the West Ham player’s subsequent free-kick being well turned behind by the Saints keeper.
Bazunu was again required as the game reached the final ten minutes, tipping the ball over after Bowen’s low cross had been looped goalwards by a deflection off Ćaleta-Car, before Saints also escaped from the resulting corner, as Lucas Paquetá blazed over from close range after the ball had dropped to him at the back post.
While it looked like West Ham might be the likeliest to score, Saints then went within inches of equalising on 85 minutes, as James Ward-Prowse, on his 400th appearance for the club, crossed from deep and Onuachu flicked a brilliant header towards goal, only to see it come back off the bar.
It proved to be the last opportunity for the visitors, as West Ham saw out the game from there.