Southampton came to Dean Court to face off against their nearest rivals in AFC Bournemouth and got the three points thanks to Jay Rodriguez's brace in the second half as Eddie Howe's men looked off the pace in a thoroughly entertaining clash.
The first half was an eventful 45 minutes as both teams went at each other and created chance after chance and it was the home side that got the first goal when a clever ball into the box by Jack Wilshere was expertly headed in by Nathan Ake to give the Cherries an early lead inside the first 10 minutes of the game.
It didn't take long for the Saints to respond as Ryan Bertrand took the ball and drove into the Bournemouth box all by himself and was afforded a lot of time on the ball and he made the defense pay with a low drive that went into the right bottom corner of Artur Boruc's goal to make it 1-1 for the visitors.
The rest of the half was an end to end period of play where both sides created good chances for themselves but couldn't make the difference and went into half time at 1-1.
The second half was a Southampton story all over as the Saints dominated the half and got the deserved goals from Rodriguez whose brace in that half sealed the three points for Claude Puel's side against a Bournemouth side that looked off their usual intensity in the second half and were unable to build on their strong home record this season.
Bournemouth pressed early and got the better chances
Right from the first minute, both teams looked to press each other and fight for domination of the ball and unsurprisingly it was the Cherries that got the better of the early chances.
The opening goal came very early for Bournemouth when a Wilshere cross into the box was taken by Ake, who scored a diving header into Fraser Forster's net to make it 1-0 to the home side.
Bournemouth's work rate off the ball was impressive as well, Charlie Daniels threatened in the final third with his work rate on and off the ball and just minutes after the opener, the Englishman found himself very close to the Southampton box but Maya Yoshida got back in time to prevent the Bournemouth left-back from creating anything of substance.
Bournemouth then had the perfect opportunity to make it 2-0 when they won the ball back as a result of some very good pressing which has always been a feature of Howe's side, Simon Francis got down the right flank regularly in the first half and also created a very good chance for Joshua King, but the Norwegian failed to capitalise on Francis' excellent work.
Although Adam Smith usually starts at fullback for Howe, his positional switch to a more right midfielder role has seen Francis move out to the fullback role and he vindicated Howe's faith in him with an excellent showing in the first half
The rest of the half saw both teams create some positive situations for themselves but hardly did much to test either of the goalkeepers, Bournemouth got the better of the chances going into he chance but the half ended 1-1.
Steven Davis made the difference for the Saints
The second half was a completely different story with regard to the first half, where the home side looked much better in the game during the first 45 minutes of the game.
Just minutes after the second half started, Jay Rodriguez scored the second goal of the game when some very clever work from Steven Davis played through the Englishman who bundled the ball into the back of the net to make the score 1-2.
Howe brought the experienced Davis off for Reed and the Northern Irishman changed the game for the Saints and brought a lot more to the game with his movement, attacking intelligence and work rate in the final third. It was his clever movement and the deft touch over the goalkeeper that gave Rodriguez an easy tap in.
The game was done and dusted when Rodriguez produced a moment of individual brilliance as he shot a volley first time from the edge of the box into the top corner to make the score 3-1 and gives Puel's side three very valuable points.
Howe's changes were too little too late
In an attempt to shake things up, Howe even brought off the likes of Jordon Ibe, Ryan Fraser as well as Benik Afobe, all these changes were supposed to make the right kind of impact for the home side but it didn't work out that way for the Saints.
Bournemouth couldn't get back into the game in spite of their best efforts and Eddie Howe will be wondering exactly how his team fell short when it mattered most.