It wasn't quite the stuff of champions, but it might well have been the stuff of the Champions League. Tottenham Hotspur huffed and puffed for the better part of their home match against Southampton, failing to impress and looking as though they were set to drop points, but they won regardless, riding a late goal from Gareth Bale to earn three huge points in the top four race.
Southampton were the better side throughout the first half and were unfortunate not to have gone into the break ahead. Spurs' line was playing very high, and the visitors were taking advantage of that by bombing forward on the break. Nathaniel Clyne should have taken advantage of that in the 11th minute, running clear of the back line after a great pass from Ricky Lambert, but his shot ended up fizzing just wide.
And the Saints came even closer to the opener after the half hour mark. Moussa Dembele dragged down Jay Rodriguez 35 yards out, and Lambert replied with a low free kick that looked destined for the far corner before Hugo Lloris got down to his left and tipped the strike onto the post. That proved the last action of the match for Dembele, who was withdrawn with what looked like a hamstring injury and replaced with Lewis Holtby.
We all knew what was coming when the second half remained scoreless 86 minutes in. Gareth Bale could easily have won a penalty when he was kicked by Jack Cork, but the FWA and PFA player of the year stepped up to win the match despite his frustration at Mark Clattenburg. Cutting in from the right and with defenders shying away from the run, Bale took aim at the bottom corner and let fly. His shot beat Artur Boruc and found the back of the net to give Tottenham new life in the Champions League race and put Southampton back into real trouble.