A pair of brutal mistakes by Kyle Naughton in the opening half hour set up Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana for opening Southampton goals, and it looked like another Europa League hangover for the home side.
But Christian Eriksen and Spurs held firm, and the Danish winger found himself a pair of goals before Gylfi Sigurdsson struck the winner two minutes deep into stoppage time.
The comeback was a spirited one, as it never seemed like Spurs were truly out of the match even after going down 2-0 on a half hour.
With the game wide open early and often, both teams got good looks into the box in the opening 10 minutes. Aaron Lennon’s cross into the box found no takers for Spurs, and Rickie Lambert’s run was cut off and Lallana’s ensuing shot was a good bit wide of the top corner.
With a couple more half-chances at either end, Southampton took full advantage of their first clear opportunity. Artur Boruc’s goal kick leaped right over the head of a surprised Naughton and fell right to Rodriguez on the right flank, and with nobody back it was all the Burnley product who slotted past Lloris for the opener on 19 minutes.
The 24-year-old’s goal came right in front of the England manager Roy Hodgson watching a number of his international players at White Hart Lane.
The opener didn’t change much, but the visitors continued to be bright in the final third. Six minutes later James Ward-Prowse came inches from a second, with his low effort deflected just wide.
Southampton would get their second moments later, when a ball clattering around the Tottenham half came to Naughton in front of the box, and a heavy touch gifted the ball to Rickie Lambert who slotted Lallana through for another easy low finish.
The mistake by Spurs right-back is the club’s 15th defensive mistake leading to a goal, the highest mark in the Premier League. On the other end, it’s the England international’s first goal in eight games, again giving Hodgson cause to smile.
Spurs weren’t done, however, as they immediately responded with a mistake on Southampton’s part. It was Nathaniel Clyne’s turn for a heavy touch to betray him, and the ball fell at the feet of Christian Eriksen who made no mistake to bring Spurs right back into things.
The goal blasted Spurs right back into things, and although they couldn’t get another before halftime, their statement was made. Danny Rose had a brilliant opportunity to get his team level two minutes before the break, but after breaking free down the left, his cut-back for Aaron Lennon was off-target and it slid through the box untouched.
The home side would retain momentum through into the second half, and it paid off almost immediately. Roberto Soldado, starting in place of the injured Emmanuel Adebayor, broke with acres of space down the right touch, and he found a streaking Eriksen in the box for a close-range tap-in and a level 2-2 scoreline.
Tottenham’s furious start to the second half wasn’t over, and they peppered the Southampton box by pumping the ball in repeatedly. It took a while for the next real chance, but Eriksen had a shot at a hat-trick getting behind the back line but substitute Callum Chambers threw his body in the way at the last moment for the block.
With tired legs taking over, the game settled down the stretch, but as expected, it sprung to life in the dying minutes as both sides pressed for the winner. Rickie Lambert’s 89th minute shot dragged wide before coming off, and then Spurs got their moment.
A long ball forward wasn’t dealt with right away by the visiting defense, and it fell to Eriksen who touched to Sigurdsson at the top of the box. There was some space to work with, and the Icelandic winger rifled confidently past Boruc deep into stoppage time.
White Hart Lane exploded, and the winner provided a massive lift for Tim Sherwood who had seen a dip in the club’s form since his initial boost. The team can still hope for a European spot next season, although they need a fifth place finish to do so. They sit in that spot with the win, but Everton in sixth have two games in hand.
For Southampton, they miss their chance to jump Newcastle into eighth place. The club has had some quality showings this season, but weren’t consistent enough at White Hart Lane to secure their result.
Tottenham – Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose; Lennon (Townsend 72′), Bentaleb, Chadli, Dembele (Sigurdsson 45′), Eriksen; Soldado.
Goals: Eriksen 30′, 46′; Sigurdsson 90+2′
Southampton – Boruc; Clyne (Chambers 45′), Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Cork, Ward-Prowse, S. Davis, Lallana, Rodriguez (Rodriguez 64′); Lambert (Gallagher 90′).
Goals: Rodriguez 19′, Lallana 28′