Danny Ings' 20th league goal of the season denied Brighton mathematical Premier League safety with a 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Neal Maupay had taken advantage of some sleepy Saints defending to fire Brighton ahead after 17 minutes, with the Seagulls knowing three points would secure their Premier League survival with two games to go.
But after a half-time double change from Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton re-emerged a different side for the second period, and came inches from levelling thanks to a superb 20-yard curling effort from Ings, which was denied by the inside of the post.
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The Golden Boot-chasing forward was not to be denied, however. With 66 minutes gone, his run off the Saints left was found by a perfect Nathan Redmond pass, and after Tariq Lamptey's slip gave him a clear run on goal he confidently slotted home, to become Saints' first 20-goal Premier League striker since James Beattie in 2003.
Jannik Vestergaard came close to a stunning winner when his 30-yard drive was tipped onto the bar by a fingertip Mat Ryan save, while substitute Yves Bissouma then missed a glorious chance to seal Brighton's safety but fired comfortably wide when unmarked from 10 yards.
Southampton: McCarthy (7), Hojbjerg (6), Bednarek (6), Vestergaard (6), Vokins (7), Smallbone (6), Ward-Prowse (7), Romeu (6), Redmond (6), Ings (8), Obafemi (5).
Subs: Walker-Peters (6), Adams (6), Armstrong (6).
Brighton: Ryan (8), Lamptey (6), Dunk (7), Webster (7), Burn (6), March (7), Stephens (6), Propper (6) , Trossard (7), Maupay (7), Murray (6).
Subs: Mooy (6), Montoya (6), Bissouma (5), Mac Allister (5), Gross (5).
Man of the match: Danny Ings.
The result means 12th-placed Southampton will need to make up five points on Burnley, in 10th, to secure a top half finish, while Brighton need one point - at most - from their final two games to be certain of survival.
Brighton edge towards safety with deserved point
The changes made across both teams could have fielded an 11-a-side team themselves, and it showed in the early stages with each defence looking like relative strangers.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took down William Smallbone's cross-field ball under little pressure to force Ryan into an early save, but the goal which would soon follow from Brighton was on another level.
Lamptey's long throw from the right was nodded on by Glenn Murray for Maupay, who had time to let it run across him before firing back across Alex McCarthy on his left, to reach double figures in his first Premier League season.
From that point, Brighton were content to defend a lead, knowing what its significance would mean, and Southampton did little to give them any concern before the break.
That may well have been what motivated Hasenhuttl into bringing on Che Adams and Kyle Walker-Peters at the break, and his inspiration certainly seemed sound when Ings smacked the inside of the post 10 minutes after the restart with a fine effort from 20 yards, with Adams denied on the rebound by Lewis Dunk's vital block.
Within 10 minutes he would be rewarded on the scoreline. With Ings peeling off Lamptey, Redmond's pass into him caught out the right-back and allowed him to stride through for an opportunity he would never pass up and beat Ryan with a low finish.
Southampton made five changes from the team which drew at Manchester United, including a Premier League debut for Jake Vokins at left-back.
There were another six for Brighton, with a rare start for Glenn Murray in attack.
A second half far livelier than the first continued to entertain, with Vestergaard invited to shoot from 30 yards as he brought the ball forward, from which he came within inches of his own Vincent Kompany moment with a stunning effort which Ryan's equally superb fingertip save somehow tipped on to the woodwork.
Within minutes, Brighton came just as close when Solly March's cross, cut out by Walker-Peters, fell for an unmarked Bissouma who looked certain to find the back of the net from 10 yards, but somehow comfortably missed the near post.
Southampton continued to turn the screw in the final 10 minutes with Adams again denied by an Adam Webster block, but Brighton held on to secure a point which moves them five clear of the relegation zone - and in all likelihood safe for another year.
Man of the match - Danny Ings
Ings had a very quiet first half with Southampton struggling to break down Brighton's steadfast defence with the hosts lacking any form of creativity, but once they found their spark he was superb.
A fine strike against the post after making his own space, a superbly taken goal and almost an assist for Adams followed as he deservedly racked up the landmark achievement of 20 Premier League goals for the season in the process.
- Southampton are unbeaten in all six of their Premier League meetings with Brighton (W2 D4). They've faced the Seagulls without defeat more than they have any other side in the competition.
- Brighton are unbeaten in their last six Premier League away games (W1 D5); this is the joint-longest ongoing run alongside Manchester United.
- Brighton striker Neal Maupay scored his 10th Premier League goal of the season; he is the 15th different Frenchman to reach double figures in a Premier League campaign.
- Southampton striker Danny Ings became the 20th different Englishman to score 20 goals in a single Premier League season.
Southampton travel to Bournemouth on Sunday at 2pm, before ending the season at home to Sheffield United on July 26 at 4pm.
Brighton face Newcastle next up, live on Sky Sports Premier League on Monday from 5.30pm; kick-off at 6pm. Their final-day opponents are Burnley at Turf Moor.