Jordy Clasie provided a moment of clarity on an otherwise unproductive afternoon for both teams in front of goal, to settle this contest in Southampton’s favour.
At times West Bromwich Albion’s performance resembled the gridlocked traffic outside the Hawthorns that threatened to delay kick-off. No way through.
This reversal represented a fourth defeat in six outings for Albion who have been crawling towards the 49 point tally accumulated during their best-ever Premier League campaign, which yielded an eighth place finish, in 2013.
The Baggies were more than a touch unfortunate on this occasion with the excellence of England goalkeeper Fraser Forster, and some errant finishing, responsible for their downfall.
“We’ve got to hit the target and be more clinical in front of goal,” said West Brom manager Tony Pulis, lamenting a failure to convert at least one of 17 attempts to score.
“Southampton are a good side and I thought they created some good chances and good opportunities themselves but in the last 25 minutes I thought we really took over the game.
“That’s when you need that little bit of composure to put the ball in the back of the net.”
During that period, Nacer Chadli and Hal Robson-Kanu were both foiled by Forster who tellingly also intervened in added-on-time, with an outstanding save to prevent Craig Dawson from restoring parity.
Not even the Baggies set-piece supremacy could save them. Jonny Evans’s inability to connect cleanly to a late opportunity provided Forster with a margin for error that he should not have been afforded.
It was far from customary fare served up by a Pulis team, particularly early in proceedings. There was penetration, pace and guile in a remarkably open contest but after a slow start Southampton soon found their stride.
Shane Long and Nathan Redmond menaced at the Birmingham Road End of the ground. Seconds later it was Phillips at the opposite end. It was perhaps too open for the Baggies, whose ability to fill those midfield spaces was so spectacularly showcased in their last home victory against Arsenal last month.
“We’re trying to win games and when it comes that way you do get they attack, we attack,” Pulis added. “There was an instance in the first half where we’d been down there throats and they break straight away and have a chance and then we win it back and have half a chance at the other end. We’re just trying to win games, I can’t fault the players.”
Here a dereliction of those duties came at the expense of the decisive goal. A long kick forward from Forster caught the West Brom defence unawares allowing Long to gather. The Republic of Ireland forward, a nuisance throughout, held off the attentions of his marker to tee-up the unattended Clasie.
The Dutch midfielder’s aim was true and his drive flew into the right corner from 20 yards.
“It was his second goal of the season and I think he can do better on this because he has a fantastic shot,” said the Southampton manager, Claude Puel.
“It was fantastic for Fraser to finish the game with a clean sheet and it was important to take this result, to keep a good ambition for the end of the season," he added.