Southampton boosted their survival hopes by beating south coast neighbours Bournemouth and earning their first Premier League win under Mark Hughes.
Saints forward Dusan Tadic scored both goals to move his side within a point of safety with three games remaining.
The Serb put the home side ahead with a low finish after a swift counter-attack, only for Joshua King to fire in an equaliser seconds before half-time.
But Tadic drilled in the winner after a superb run to earn Saints a vital win.
Hughes’s third-bottom side had to dig deep to repel a late Bournemouth onslaught, Saints keeper Alex McCarthy making a flying save to keep out Ryan Fraser’s goalbound shot in stoppage time.
Southampton hung on to earn their first home league win since beating Everton in November, ending a run of nine games without victory at St Mary’s.
“We needed to win the game, a draw wasn’t good enough. It was a huge effort,” said Hughes.
“Now we need to keep this momentum and if we keep playing like this we will go close.”
Saints marching on to survival?
Saints boss Hughes failed to chalk up a victory in his opening four Premier League matches after replacing Mauricio Pellegrino, which left his new club in the relegation zone and at risk of being cut adrift.
No wonder the Welshman labelled the visit of Bournemouth as “arguably” the most important of a managerial career spanning almost 600 matches.
A nervy atmosphere around St Mary’s changed when Tadic punished the away side for switching off, Saints swiftly turning defence into attack as Mario Lemina sprang forward before picking out the Serb who coolly converted with a low angled shot from 15 yards.
Saints have had a nasty habit of throwing leads away this season – and it was a case of deja vu as Bournemouth levelled with almost the last kick of the first half.
The Cherries, who were looking for their first win at St Mary’s, only managed their first shot on target seconds before King pounced at the far post when Saints were unpicked by an away corner.
Beating Cherries huge result – Hughes
A furious-looking Hughes marched down the tunnel at half-time, presumably to have some stern words with his side for switching off defensively, and they returned after the break with renewed purpose.
Tadic pounced on an error from Cherries defender Steve Cook, who tried to chest down a long punt by McCarthy, the Serb surging forward before precisely slotting in the winner.
Hughes was unusually animated in the closing stages, a mark of how important the match was to Saints, urging more noise from his team’s supporters.
They obliged and the home team responded with a dogged – and sometimes desperate – defensive display to keep Bournemouth out.
“The new coach gave us extra power and experience and finally we gave him something back,” said Tadic.
Cherries on the verge of safety
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has refused to accept his team are safe from relegation, despite sitting in 12th place and six points above third-bottom Saints.
Victory at neighbouring Saints – something they had not achieved in 13 previous attempts – would have mathematically assured Howe’s side of a fourth consecutive season of Premier League football.
That they are already so far ahead of the drop zone is testament to the hard work and resilience of Howe and his players.
Having lost seven of their opening 10 matches, the Cherries did not emerge out of the bottom three until early November and were also there as recently as Boxing Day.
A fine run of form since then has prevented any serious concerns, but after a performance which he described as “disappointing”, Howe says he is still looking over his shoulder.
His side threatened more in the latter stages as Southampton retreated and almost nicked a point when Fraser’s arcing drive was stopped by McCarthy.
Southampton manager Mark Hughes: “Everyone knew the circumstance, we needed a win and draw or a loss wouldn’t do. This is only a part of what we need to do, but good for us.
“I thought we were good value for the lead, then we conceded from a set piece. Worry sets in about how the guys react, we have been damaged by previous results, but to a man they all stepped up, dug in, got back in the lead.
“At the end we were throwing bodies to keep them out. It is a huge result for us, doesn’t mean anything yet but potentially significant.
“We need to have the teams above us looking over their shoulder, and this result does that. They know we have good quality.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe: “The goals we conceded were big mistakes and we got punished for them. I’m disappointed with how we played, it was a game we could and should have won if we play like we can, but we didn’t.
“We were disappointed with attacking play, got in promising positions but the quality wasn’t there. We made life difficult for ourselves, had good spells but not enough.
“We have got to show that pride in trying to achieve and win. We have got two games to do that now.”