One hero down, Tottenham Hotspur needed another of their star men to step up and Dele Alli duly obliged by taking Harry Kane’s penalty taking responsibility and, for 11 minutes against Southampton, the injured striker’s position.
There was no hesitation or conversation over who would take over from Kane on spot kicks, when Alli won a first-half penalty.
Instead of looking around for direction or another willing taker, Alli grasped the ball, re-spotted it when goalkeeper Fraser Forster tried to put him off and dispatched it into the net.
The goal proved to be just about enough for Tottenham, who survived a second-half comeback from the visitors, and underlined why manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Alli can do just about anything.
That point was reinforced near the end, when Pochettino replaced Son Heung-min with midfielder Harry Winks and made Alli his out-an-out striker until Vincent Janssen was also sent on with time running out.
“Dele Alli always can surprise and you cannot guess with him,” said Pochettino. “He has an unbelievable personality and character, and it is all possible with him.
“I saw him at 17 years old playing at Milton Keynes as a holding midfielder against Manchester United. Always he can surprise me, maybe one day he can play like a goalkeeper or a full-back or a centre-back!”
Having been moved into a more advanced role this season, Alli has scored 15 Premier League goals and Pochettino added: “He is a player who likes to run into the box and he is very often very clever in there. In the box, he looks like a striker because he is more than clever, he has made his mark. Outside the box, he plays like a midfielder.”
If there had been any doubt that it was Alli who decided to take the penalty he scored himself, then Pochettino confirmed that the 20-year-old had taken the situation into his own hands.
“It’s good that you have players who want to take responsibility to take the penalty,” said Pochettino. “Fantastic. When there is no Harry Kane, for me everyone can take the penalty, the same way when they want to shoot, no problem.”
With no Kane, Tottenham needed an early settler and it came courtesy of Christian Eriksen scoring his first Premier League goal of 2017 in the 14th minute.
Nobody in the Premier League turns better with a football than Mousa Dembele and he span into space before passing to Eriksen, who curled the ball into the net.
Forster may have been disappointed not to get a hand on Eriksen’s effort, but the Southampton goalkeeper had already done well to stop Son.
Eriksen looked set to double his and Tottenham’s tally midway through the first half, but his shot was blocked and from the resulting corner Forster produced a super save to deny Tony Alderweireld a headed goal against his former club.
When the second came in the 33rd minute after Steven Davis had crashed into Alli in the penalty area, Tottenham looked on course for a comfortable victory but the hosts allowed Southampton back into the game.
There had already been a first-half warning that Spurs were vulnerable on their right-hand side, when an Eric Dier mistake let in Manolo Gabbiadini, who swapped passes with Dusan Tadic before rifling the ball into the side-netting.
Gabbiadini hurt his groin while shooting and had to be replaced by Shane Long, but Pochettino had been concerned enough to have words with both Dier and Kyle Walker on the touchline.
Pochettino will have no doubt reiterated his fears at the break, but just seven minutes after the restart Southampton halved the deficit after taking advantage of a Ryan Bertrand raid up Tottenham’s right.
Bertrand galloped into space and his cross was not dealt with by Alderweireld, allowing James Ward-Prowse to sort his feet out and score past Hugh Lloris.
Long then tested the hands of the Spurs goalkeeper after reaching a ball down the channel before Jan Vertonghen.
With Pochettino and the home crowd growing increasingly anxious, Kieran Trippier took over from Walker, who spent some time with the Spurs physio examining a hand injury.
Walker, though, confirmed he is fit to join up with the England squad and Pochettino insisted his change had been tactical, rather than enforced.
Janssen got on for the final four minutes to much support from the home crowd and almost scored with a shot that stung the palms of Forster.
There was still time for Southampton substitute Sofiane Boufal to fire just wide before the vast majority inside White Hart Lane could breathe a collective sigh of relief and enjoy the fact they had witnessed a 10th successive home victory and their team sit nine points ahead of Arsenal.
“In the first half, 2-0, we were in control of the game,” said Pochettino. “It is true that with their goal we made a mistake, but that always happens in football. The victory keeps us in a very good position in the table.”
Southampton manager Claude Puel was left to rue the fact his team were not awarded a penalty by referee Andre Marriner, who also officiated the EFL Cup final, after Ben Davis had caught Dusan Tadic in the first half.
“I prefer to say nothing,” said Puel. “Although the details were very important and the details were not for us like against Manchester United. I can tell you this.”
Full time: Spurs 2-1 Southampton
The referee has seen enough at White Hart Lane and blows the final whistle.
Average touch positions (full time)
James Ward-Prowse has halved the deficit for Southampton and it's now 2-1.
Second half: Spurs 2-0 Southampton
We're back under way at White Hart Lane.
Half time: Spurs 2-0 Southampton
The first 45 minutes is up at White Hart Lane.
Average touch positions (half time)
Dele Alli adds a second for Spurs - it's now 2-0!
Southampton hit back
Southampton register their first shot, in response to three so far from Spurs.
1-0! Christian Eriksen strikes to give Spurs the early lead.
Kick off: Spurs vs Southampton
They're off and running at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham Hotspur:Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Walker, Wanyama, Dembele, Davies, Eriksen, Alli, Son.
Subs: Janssen, Vorm, Trippier, Sissoko, Onomah, Wimmer, Winks.
Southampton: Forster, Cedric, Stephens, Romeu, Yoshida, Davis, Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond, Gabbiadini.
Subs: Long, Rodriguez, Caceres, Boufal, Hojbjerg, McQueen, Hassen.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)