Story of the game
A total of 18 crosses went into the box in the first without so much as a shot on target produced by any of them, allowing Saints a route from which to navigate back into the game.
James Ward-Prowse had Southampton’s best chance in the 28th minute, but could only direct his free header into the grateful hands of Aaron Ramsdale.
Southampton began to work their way into the game and, built on the strength of the back four in the face of Bournemouth’s counter attacks, took the lead just before the half-time interval.
A slick counter of their own was the route to goal, with Nathan Redmond ultimately feeding Danny Ings who, as usual, did the rest.
Becoming somewhat of a trademark finish, Ings whipped the ball into the bottom right corner from the left side of the box, with one bounce ahead of Ramsdale enough for the ball into nestle in the net.
Ward-Prowse began to dictate the direction of the game from midfield alongside Oriol Romeu, and the latter’s header from a corner that was won by the former was handled by Harry Wilson upon VAR inspection.
Ings’ spot-kick was sluggish and casual though, and his perfect Premier League penalty record was over when Ramsdale saved comfortably down to his left.
Bournemouth tails were up, and Wilson would later have a huge chance to draw the Cherries level, but his strike lacked power and Alex McCarthy was able to smother it in the Southampton goal.
The game had descended into something far more resemblant of volleyball than football as Bournemouth threw the kitchen sink in search of an equaliser.
Eddie Howe had three centre forwards on for the final 10 minutes, and within seconds of throwing on Sam Surridge they were carved open only for Ramsdale to save them again, this time at the feet of Redmond.
And it was Surridge that thought he had found the goal right at the very death. He was on hand to finish from a long throw into the box, but Callum Wilson was offside from Surridge’s initial flick-on, and the goal was disallowed by VAR.
As if that wasn’t enough salt in Bournemouth’s wounds, Che Adams added a second with the very last kick of the contest, almost all but sentencing the Cherries to relegation.
Man of the match: Yannik Vestergaard
Bournemouth threw everything they had into finding a goal and a way back into the game, and it was consistently Yannik Vestergaard that was the barrier to their fortunes.
He won four of six aerial duels and six of 10 total duels, beaten only by Shane Long in both stats, and his nine clearances were three times as many as anyone else on the pitch according to Football Critic.
A crucial block on Dominic Solanke late on kept Saints in the lead, and it was upon his foundations that the defence was built to maintain the clean sheet that ultimately won them the game.
Strong finish continues
This win means Southampton are enjoying their best finish to a Premier League season since 2016, a season in which they finished 6th in the table.
With Ings spearheading the attack, Ward-Prowse leading in the middle and a suddenly reliable rotation of Vestergaard, Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek at the back, the spine of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side is beginning to develop.
Throw in a well in-form McCarthy in goal and the base is there for Saints to really make something of their development in the coming season.
Adams has broken his goal drought and should look for increased output next season, while Nathan Redmond seems only to continue to improve.
For a side that has battled against relegation for some time and looked set to do so again this season, Southampton are well set for a possible top half finish sooner rather than later.
Bournemouth all but down?
It was a cruel result for the Cherries. They gave everything they had left and came ever so close on a number of occasions to equalising, but ultimately it wasn’t to be.
They will go to Goodison Park to face Everton on the final day of the season knowing that only a win will keep any survival hopes alive. They will need to ensure Watford lose their remaining two fixtures and have such score lines to make up a gap of four in goal difference.
The Hornets play Manchester City and Arsenal and are now without a manager after sacking Nigel Pearson, so anything is possible. Aston Villa face Arsenal and West Ham United in their last two, currently on identical points and goal difference with the Cherries.
Howe’s men have been a feel good story of English football for the 21st century, but they will need a lot of elements to fall into place if they are to retain Premier League status for a sixth season.