Rickie Lambert’s bundled stoppage time strike secured all three points for Saints in south Wales.
Second-half substitute Lambert was in the right place at the right time to force the visitors’ winning goal as he pressured his former Stockport teammate Ashley Williams into slicing the ball high into the air and over goalkeeper Michel Vorm, leaving the striker to force it over the line for a dramatic late goal.
For much of the game it looked as though there was going to be a second successive goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium in an entertaining contest during the Swans’ final home game of the season.
In the opening 45 minutes, Saints just about edged the number of clear chances created, the best of which coming from returning Morgan Schneiderlin who headed over, whilst Dejan Lovren also went close with a direct free-kick 25 yards from goal.
Artur Boruc denied Pablo Hernandez with an early save, which would contribute to the Pole’s third successive clean sheet as Saints ended their away season on a high note.
The success secured a double of league victories over the Swans, whilst eighth place was also confirmed by Saints’ first win in Swansea for 52 years.
Mauricio Pochettino decided not to risk Rickie Lambert from the start. The striker picked up a glute injury during the week, and was deemed fit enough only for the substitutes bench. The absence of Lambert allowed Morgan Schneiderlin to return to the side after recovering from the dead leg which kept him out of last weekend’s win over Everton.
Hosts Swansea got the game underway with Wilfried Bony and Wayne Routledge taking kick-off on a clear and mild day in south Wales.
Backed by a jovial and sold out travelling support behind the goal of Artur Boruc, Saints made a solid start to the game, with Adam Lallana playing a supporting role behind Sam Gallagher, who was making his third start for the club.
Despite an encouraging opening from the visitors, there was an uncharacteristic mistake from Steven Davis in the fifth minute which allowed Swans midfielder Jonjo Shelvey to win the ball on the edge of the Saints area. The midfielder fed Bony, whose flick allowed Pablo Hernandez to take a shot at goal that Artur Boruc saved, and then on the follow up, Jonathan de Guzman wastefully fired over the bar.
On nine minutes Shelvey delivered a deep cross from the left which landed on the head of Bony but went well wide of Boruc’s right post.
The open nature of the contest shone through again soon after as Saints broke with Luke Shaw down the left before his burst forward was brought to an abrupt end with a foul on the touchline. The free-kick was taken short by Davis into the path of Lallana, whose flick on went into Cork and a low drive from the midfielder was blocked by a sea of white shirts.
Another move from the left came the way of the visitors on 16 minutes when Shaw’s delivery into the middle of the area was headed way off target by Morgan Schneiderlin, who put the ball over Michel Vorm’s crossbar.
Both teams sought to play neat possession football where possible, with Saints’ midfield three of Wanyama, Cork and Schneiderlin providing ample cover for the back four as well as giving a platform for Pochettino’s side to build from.
On 20 minutes, a combination of Swansea defenders Jordi Amat and Dwight Tiendalli brought down Sam Gallagher as the forward bore down on goal. Dejan Lovren stepped up to take the set piece offered to the visitors on the edge of the area, and his curled effort brushed the top of the net, as the Croat showed his competition for dead ball opportunities to the absent Lambert.
Saints grew further in confidence with Shaw and Lallana linking up effectively to create another inviting chance, though the cross from the skipper was just beyond Davis, who had made a late dart into the area to try and convert the curling delivery.
More trickery from Lallana won Saints a corner on the right side before a prolonged spell of dominance from the visitors which culminated in Clyne providing a terrific cross towards Gallagher, who headed just wide of the target from six yards out.
That signalled the start of a flurry of chances for either side. At the other end, Bony fired over when well placed inside the area before Saints went back on the offensive where Clyne laid the ball into Cork who struck a rising shot into the arms of Vorm.
In the 38th minute Shaw rescued a loose ball and set the visitors on the way again by finding Davis in midfield. The early ball from him to Cork gave the Saints number 18 a chance to shoot, but his strike was deflected on its way out for a corner by Swans skipper Ashley Williams.
From a later corner, Davis picked out Schneiderlin at the far post, and the Frenchman’s volley back across the six yard area was headed towards goal by Lallana, but cleared away off Gallagher to earn the hosts a goal kick.
Saints ended the half on top in terms of chances created, but the teams couldn’t be separated heading into the interval.
HALF-TIME: SWANSEA CITY 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON
There were no changes from either side at the break, with Saints picking up from where they left off at the end of the opening 45 minutes.
Cork played Lallana through the centre, with the skipper finding space to shoot from only to be denied by a smart save by Vorm down to his right.
Swansea soon found their rhythm however, and fired a warning when Pablo Hernandez’s free-kick form the byline on the right had to be headed clear by Fonte, before Ben Davies’s corner a minute later was flicked wide by the head of Ashley Williams.
Saints remained a threat on the break, and on 56 minutes, Schneiderlin drove forward to find Shaw who in turn fed Lallana from the byline, but a clutch of Swansea defenders ensured that the strike didn’t trouble Vorm as the ball was cleared.
On 59 Fonte was booked for bringing down Hernandez on the left flank after Swansea had put together their brightest move of the half which was led by a strong run by Jonathan de Guzman. Jonjo Shelvey struck the resulting free-kick straight at goal, but fortunately for Saints comfortably into the hands of Boruc.
Rickie Lambert was introduced as a 62nd minutes substitute just as Saints had won a corner through Shaw’s persistence against Tiendalli down the left.
Lambert replaced Lallana, taking over the captain’s armband at the same time, but couldn’t get onto the end of Davis’s corner delivery which evaded every red shirt inside the area, as Saints missed another opportunity to test Vorm.
On 66 Davis fired over for the visitors which preceded Swansea’s first change as former Saint Nathan Dyer was introduced to the action in place of de Guzman for the last 25 minutes or so.
Saints continued to be restricted to going from range with Schneiderlin the next to try his luck from outside of the area, though his latest effort was easy for Vorm to dive on at the right post.
Both sides asked questions of each other as play moved into the final 20 minutes with Hernandez doing everything right apart from the finish after breaking into the Saints area.
The outstretched legs of Davies did enough to prevent the ball breaking for Gallagher on the chase, with both teams then making another throw of the dice to try and force a goal in the closing stages.
Hernandez and Tiendalli were replaced by Marvin Emnes and Neil Taylor for the hosts, whilst James Ward-Prowse was introduced for Gallagher in Saints’ second switch.
Another period of evenly contested play was ended by Saints’ third change which saw Harrison Reed replace the hard-working Cork in midfield for the final five minutes or so, with the youngster joining Wanyama and Schneiderlin in the midfield three for the remaining time in the contest.
An additional three minutes were added on for stoppages, during which time, a vital diving header clear by Lovren denied Bony a chance one-on-one, but just as Swansea were preparing their end of season celebration, Saints popped up with the most extraordinary and bizarre late winner.
Davis’s lobbed ball over the top deflected its way through towards goal where a huge slice up into the air by Ashley Williams was bundled into the net on the goal line by LAMBERT who could scarcely believe his luck, as he stole in with the game’s decisive touch through sheer strength to force the winning strike.
FULL-TIME: SWANSEA CITY 0-1 SOUTHAMPTON
Swansea City team: Michel Vorm, Dwight Tiendalli (Neil Taylor 77), Jordi Amat, Ashley Williams (c), Ben Davies, Leon Britton, Jonjo Shelvey, Jonathan de Guzman (Nathan Dyer 66), Pablo Hernandez (Marvin Emnes 77), Wayne Routledge, Wilfried Bony.
Unused substitutes: Gerhard Tremmel, Kyle Bartley, Jay Fulton, Alvaro Vazquez.
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Jack Cork (Harrison Reed 85), Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Adam Lallana (c) (Rickie Lambert 62), Sam Gallagher (James Ward-Prowse 77)
Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Calum Chambers, Jos Hooiveld, Guly do Prado
Goal: Lambert, 90+2
Referee: Anthony Taylor