Southampton ended an intense run of fixtures with a frustrating afternoon at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, as they suffered a 2-1 defeat that leaves them still glimpsing over their shoulder in the Premier League table.
Despite Ché Adams scoring his third goal in as many matches, efforts either side of that from Lewis Dunk and Leandro Trossard gave the visitors a big three points and meant a fifth home game in succession for Saints without a top-flight victory.
With nine matches left in their season, Hasenhüttl’s side still remain seven points clear of the relegation zone, but with the three teams between them and 18th place – Burnley, Newcastle and now Brighton – all picking up points this weekend, the degree of comfort is perhaps slightly less than it was before.
There will be opportunity to ease things relatively soon, with Burnley, West Brom and Crystal Palace, who also occupy places in the bottom half, up next in the league, but there will be a few weeks before Saints get that chance, with an FA Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth up next, before a pause in the season for the latest round of internationals.
As anticipated, Hasenhüttl brought a number of players back into the his team after rotating them out of Wednesday’s 5-2 defeat at Manchester City.
Fraser Forster was restored in goal, while Kyle Walker-Peters, Ibrahima Diallo, Takumi Minamino and Nathan Tella also started, as Saints fielded a side that mirrored as closely as possible the one that had beaten Sheffield United 2-0 last weekend.
For Brighton, who began the day above 18th-placed Fulham on goal difference, there was only one change from the team that lost 2-1 at home to Leicester in their previous game, as Alexis Mac Allister dropped to the bench, to be replaced by Danny Welbeck.
After a quiet couple of minutes, it was Saints who created the first opportunity, as an angled Jannik Vestergaard pass out of defence wasn’t well dealt with by Brighton, allowing Adams to pick up the second ball. After swapping passes with Walker-Peters, the striker played a deflected pass across the edge of the area, which fell into the path of Stuart Armstrong, but his first-time shot was a little too close to Robert Sánchez, and the visiting keeper made the save.
At the other end, Forster was called into action on 16 minutes, flinging himself to his left to tip over Neil Maupay’s shot across goal, after a slick Brighton move had worked the ball into the forward on the edge of the area.
From the resulting corner, however, the Saints keeper would be beaten.
Pascal Groß’s out-swinging delivery was met by Dunk 16 yards out, and he managed to beat Ryan Bertrand and get enough power on his downward header to bounce it past Forster at the near post and give the visitors a valuable lead.
If Bertrand hadn’t been able to win that header against the towering Brighton centre-back, he did produce a crucial one ten minutes later in the other box, as Southampton levelled the score.
James Ward-Prowse had seen a corner cleared, before Minamino had a low shot blocked, but Saints then worked the ball to Armstrong, who delivered from a position about 25 yards out on the right-hand side. His cross looped towards the far side of the area, where Bertrand beat Joël Veltman to the jump and nodded the ball back across goal. Dunk was almost able to then leap high enough to divert it to safety, but it flicked off his head and dropped into the path of Adams six yards out, with the striker slamming a volley past Sánchez to make it 1-1.
Soon after, Minamino threatened with a low shot from just outside the area, but, although well hit, it was a little too central and Sánchez got himself behind it to save.
The momentum might have been with Saints at this point, but it was Brighton who then carved out the best chance before half-time, as a swift move from the back in the 42nd minute ended with the roving Dan Burn playing Groß clean through on the right side, only for his shot towards the far bottom corner to catch the out-stretched boot of Forster, sending it wide and keeping the scores level at the break.
There was nothing the Southampton keeper could do with the opportunity Brighton created in the 56th minute, though.
Former Saints captain Adam Lallana played a pass from deep into the feet of Welbeck 25 yards out, and he produced a smart first-time touch to play in Trossard, who took a touch to set himself before firing high into the net to restore the visitors’ advantage.
Saints could, and probably should, have then levelled just before the hour mark, as they too worked the ball through the middle of the Brighton defence, ending with Tella being fouled just outside the edge of the area. But, with the ball having spun on into the path of Adams, referee Stuart Atwell allowed play to continue, only for the striker’s subsequent shot to be too close to Sánchez, who got in the way of it.
Attwell did then pull play back for the free-kick, but Ward-Prowse’s effort hit the wall and spun behind for a corner that came to nothing.
Hasenhüttl then made his first change of the game, as Nathan Redmond came on in place of Minamino on 65 minutes, before Moussa Djenepo was sent on for Tella shortly after.
Brighton boss Graham Potter responded by swapping Welbeck for Davy Pröpper with a little under 15 minutes to go, to perhaps shore things up slightly, although it was his side that looked the more likely to add another goal at this point.
With that in mind, Hasenhüttl threw on Dan Nlundulu for the closing stages, as he replaced Armstrong, while the visitors also added further to the flurry of changes, as Trossard was withdrawn for Jakub Moder.
But Saints could not carve out one final chance, as Attwell's whistle brought an end to the game and confirmation that all three points were heading further along the south coast.