Southampton secured their first home win since January to end Crystal Palace’s winning run and leave the Eagles firmly entrenched in the relegation mire.
Sam Allardyce was gunning for a fifth win in a row for the first time since 2006, when at Bolton. Having never lost a game at St Mary’s in the Premier League, he will have fancied his chances.
But the Saints should have secured victory long before Maya Yoshida and James Ward-Prowse settled matters in the 84th and 85th minute.
Shane Long was the guilty party, missing four excellent chances in a match largely dominated by Southampton.
He twice should have had his team in front in the first ten minutes. First after 25 seconds as he latched on to Nathan Redmond’s pass before pulling his shot wide of the right post.
Then the Irishman was the recipient of a beautifully weighted pass from James Ward-Prowse but again snatched at his shot which drifted harmlessly wide.
Palace showed little as an attacking force in the opening stages but came close to scoring through Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick which just evaded Fraser Forster’s left post.
Barcelona target Cedric Soares was making useful inroads down Southampton’s right against Jeffrey Schlupp, deputising in the Eagles’ defence for the injured Patrick Van Aanholt.
The Portuguese crossed to the far post to Redmond whose header was brilliantly saved by the inform Wayne Hennessey.
But Palace looked to have ridden the storm and began to threaten more regularly.
Wilfried Zaha came close to scoring from Christian Benteke’s knock-down but saw his volley deflected over by Oriol Romeu.
But Spurs target Zaha did feature in a brilliant Palace counter attack which put them in front.
The Ivorian fed Jason Puncheon, who in turn found Andros Townsend and his low cross was thumped home at close range by Benteke, his 11th goal of the season.
The half ended amongst a sea of protests as Redmond drew Puel’s side level in the final moments.
Southampton’s French manager was furious as referee Roger East waved away two penalty claims before Redmond’s leveler.
The first came as Schlupp appeared to handle Dusan Tadic’s shot before the official waved away Long’s appeals as he tumbled under Milivojevic’s challenge.
The controversy was not over as Saints captain Steven Davis bundled over Zaha before crossing to Redmond who scored at the far post with Sam Allardyce this time appealing to the fourth official, Lee Probert.
Both sets of players left the field voicing their trenchant criticisms to the referee whilst the home crowd jeered.
Just as they had in the first half, Southampton came out strongly in the second. England in internationals Redmond and James Ward-Prowse combined only for the latter to have his shot blocked by Mamadou Sakho before Soares dragged the rebound wide.
Long then had his third chance to score. This time it was Tadic who found his run but his chipped finish found the roof of the net rather than the back of it.
Neither team looked like settling for the draw and the Eagles almost restored their lead through the unlikely source of Martin Kelly who struck the near post following Benteke’s knock down.
But Long’s fourth attempt did not bring him the desired result as again he collected Tadic’s clever pass only to be foiled at close quarters by the impressive Hennessey.
Finally Southampton made the breakthrough as Redmond accelerated down the left and crossed for Jack Stephens who helped the ball on to fellow centre back Yoshida to score at the far post.
Puel’s side sealed matters a minute later when the impressive Tadic fed Soares who crossed for Ward-Prowse to smash home at close range.