Palace’s four-match winning run came to an end thanks to a late flurry from Southampton, who scored twice in the dying stages to deny Sam Allardyce’s men a deserved point.
Things had begun rosily enough for the visitors when Christian Benteke notched his 13th goal of the campaign after a well-worked team goal, but just before the break Nathan Redmond levelled things up to set up an enthralling second 45 minutes.
An even end-to-end affair brought no further goals until the 84th minute when Maya Yoshida converted from close range, and a minute later James Ward-Prowse wrapped up the points to condemn Allardyce to his first ever defeat at St Mary’s.
The first 20 minutes belonged to the hosts and they could easily have taken the lead within the opening minute when Shane Long linked up with Redmond on the left, and the wide man slipped in the Republic of Ireland international who sped past the recalled Martin Kelly before beating Wayne Hennessey with a low shot, but fortunately for Palace the ball whistled millimetres past the far upright.
Allardyce’s side had their first sniff of goal after 11 minutes when Wilfried Zaha won a free-kick just outside the area which Luka Milivojevic curled around the outside of the wall and saw it clip the base of the post on its way wide, but the Saints continued to look the more threatening from open play and after a raking pass by Steven Davis sent Cedric Soares scampering down the right, a fantastic cross by the full-back allowed Redmond to head goalwards but a fully-stretched Hennessey managed to palm the ball to safety.
However, after slowly working their way into the contest, things finally came together for the Eagles after half an hour when a fantastic team move resulted in the deadlock being broken. Zaha allowed Schlupp to push on down the left who returned the ball to the winger, and after he cut inside possession swiftly went through Jason Puncheon before Andros Townsend delivered dangerously into the area, where master-poacher Benteke was on hand to tuck the chance past Fraser Forster and open the scoring in fine style.
Unfortunately for Palace though, the lead wouldn’t be taken into the interval as in the final minute of the half Southampton controversially found an equaliser. As Zaha tried to shepherd the ball out of touch in his own third he seemed to be barged over by Ward-Prowse, but the England under-21 international was allowed to swing a cross towards the back post where Redmond was on hand to chest it down and scuff into the bottom corner to level things up.
Four minutes after the restart Claude Puel’s men could have moved in front when Redmond cut the ball back from the byline and Mamadou Sakho did well to block a Davis attempt before Soares blasted the rebound wide, and then it looked nailed on that Long would score when he was played in behind the Eagles backline and clipped the ball over Hennessey, but thankfully also the crossbar.
But back came Palace and they nearly restored their advantage through an unlikely source when a Townsend free-kick was nudged into the path of Kelly by Benteke, and the defender thumped a shot off the post which rebounded into Zaha’s path who could only stab the opportunity well wide, but then a minute later Hennessey made a fine reaction stop to deny the lively Long when he again escaped behind the defence but couldn’t find a way around the giant Welshman.
The second half panned out like a tennis rally with the action swinging from end to end, and Long nearly repeated Troy Deeney’s infamous header into his own net after a corner during a sustained period of Palace pressure before Hennessey had to get down to stop a deflected Oriol Romeu shot creeping into the bottom corner, and then only two inspired blocks by Saho and Damien Delaney prevented Davis from twice converting a Dusan Tadic cutback with 10 minutes to go.
But the pressure finally told and the Saints would ultimately cruise to victory by scoring twice in two minutes late on. Firstly, the dangerous Redmond managed to get to the byline and once again send a dangerous centre into the mixer, which deflected off Davis before landing kindly at the feet of Yoshida who sent it into the net, and then 60 seconds later Cedric picked up the ball on the edge of the box and teed up the unmarked Ward-Prowse to side-foot home from eight yards out and end the Eagles’ unbeaten run.
Southampton: Forster, Soares, Stephens, Yoshida, McQueen, Davis (Hojbjerg 87), Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond (Rodriguez 90), Long. Subs not used: Hassen, Pied, Caceres, Clasie, Sims.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Sakho, Kelly, Schlupp (Delaney 58), Milivojevic (Flamini 88), Cabaye (Sako 46), Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend, C. Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Fryers, Lee, Kaikai.