They still cannot win away from Humberside and their top-flight survival remains in the balance but when goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic plunged to his left to push Dusan Tadic’s 89th-minute penalty to safety nobody was denying that this tasted like victory of some magnitude for Hull City.
Jakupovic had grasped a precious lifeline for his struggling club, and as the away support celebrated ecstatically at the other end of the stadium, perhaps it marked a sea-change in Hull’s fortunes on their travels.
Hull have not won on the road since their opening assignment of the season at Swansea on Aug 20, and there is just one opportunity to rectify the issue, at Crystal Palace on Sunday week. After Swansea’s battling draw at Old Trafford yesterday, Hull may need more than just their formidable home form to survive.
Few would have complained had Saturday’s visit to St Mary’s yielded a breakthrough win. The hungrier and more adventurous side by some measure, Hull had several stand-out performers – composed central defender Harry Maguire, enterprising full-back Andrew Robertson and creative wideman Kamil Grosicki – in a compact team effort.
It all looked set to be undone when Alfred N’Diaye tangled with Southampton’s Maya Yoshida and referee Mike Dean, who dismissed a couple of Hull claims for a spot-kick, gave the penalty.
Tadic’s shot was low and well-struck, but Jakupovic was Hull’s man for the moment. “Oh man! I’ve saved a lot of penalties in my career but this is for sure one of the main penalties. It was last minute. We need every single point,” said the Bosnian-born Swiss international.
Jakupovic, who has overtaken David Marshall to become Hull’s regular No 1 under manager Marco Silva, revealed he trusted his instinct to deny Tadic.
“I saw his last four or five penalties with my goalkeeper coach and he never finished like that, always higher and in the middle,” Jakupovic said. “Finally I had to make the decision. My feeling, my stomach told me to go this side and I went. You have to be lucky as well because it was a very good penalty.
“I don’t want to speak about the mistakes of refs, everybody makes mistakes. When he gave the penalty I said ‘c’mon now, I have to help the team again, try to save the penalty’. I spoke to myself and finally I did it.”
It ended an unhappy afternoon for Southampton, whose supporters aired their discontent at half-time, again when striker Manolo Gabbiadini was substituted on the hour and finally, and most vociferously, at the end.
Yoshida said: “I can imagine how the supporters feel because we are very frustrated after games like today. It is difficult to talk about scoring because I am a defender but we shouldn’t play like we did today.”