A Danny Ings penalty was not enough to earn him the Golden Boot as Southampton signed off with a 3-1 comeback win over Sheffield United.
The Blades' superb first-half performance earned them a richly-deserved half-time lead through John Lundstram's smart finish when Southampton failed to defend Billy Sharp's cross (26).
- Get Sky Sports - All channels £23 a month
- Premier League table | Premier League top scorers
- How Southampton and Sheffield United lined up | Match stats
But the Saints' second-half turnaround began within five minutes of the restart, with Che Adams firing in at Dean Henderson's near post after a loose pass from Sander Berge, before completing the turnaround with his second goal 19 minutes from time, stabbing home a loose ball.
Ings needed to score at least twice to give himself any hope of the Golden Boot, and with six minutes to go he picked himself up after Oliver Norwood caught him inside the box to beat Henderson with an excellent penalty - his first of the entire campaign.
Liverpool: McCarthy (8), Walker-Peters (7), Vestergaard (5), Stephens (6), Bertrand (7), Romeu (7), Ward-Prowse (7), Redmond (7), Armstrong (6), Ings (7), Adams (8).
Subs: Smallbone (6), Long, Obafemi (n/a).
Sheffield United Henderson (5), Basham (6), Egan (6), Robinson (6), Baldock (6), Berge (6), Lundstram (7), Fleck (7), Stevens (6), McBurnie (5), Sharp (5).
Subs: Zivkovic (6), Clarke (5), Norwood (n/a).
Man of the match: Che Adams
Ralph Hasenhuttl added attacking reinforcements late on despite the comfortable scoreline as he looked to bolster Ings' chances of finding the net again - but, with Sheffield United holding firm in the final minutes, the Saints' top scorer was left disappointed, although the hosts racked up a seventh game without defeat since the Premier League restart.
Southampton turn it round to end on high
With only Norwich enduring a worse home record than Southampton this season, Sheffield United may have felt their chances of sealing eighth position, and a highest league finish since 1975, were relatively strong.
Certainly, their first-half performance at St Mary's would have gone some way to aiding that. Even before Lundstram's 27th-minute opener, Sharp raced through on goal after George Baldock slipped him in down the right flank, but should have made life harder for Alex McCarthy in goal, while Oli McBurnie saw a shot from a poorly-defended cross blocked.
It would be another wide delivery that would make the breakthrough. With Sharp pulling wide to hold up the play, his routine cross was badly misjudged by Jannick Vestergaard, and, with Ryan Bertrand caught on his heels, Lundstram snuck in at the far post to beat McCarthy.
Lundstram could have had another minutes later when Sharp broke again and found him in space, but his half-volley was sensationally clawed away by the in-form goalkeeper.
Southampton had plenty of first-half possession in attacking areas while failing to trouble Henderson, but soon rectified that after the interval. Berge's attempted tackle on James Ward-Prowse set Adams away in the box, and from a tight angle he rifled the ball inside Henderson's near post, with an effort the goalkeeper may feel he should have kept out.
A now re-invigorated Saints outfit continued to push to complete the turnaround but against one of the Premier League's best defences, struggled to create more opportunities - until Kyle Walker-Peters' effort, blocked by a falling Chris Basham, rebounded straight to Adams, who could barely believe his luck as he netted a second goal in 21 minutes, with his tally for the season now doubled.
Notable from a lack of goalmouth action was the Golden Boot-chaser - but Ings would get his chance with time running out. Despite a poor touch from a long cross-field ball into the box, his tricky feet left Sheffield United back-peddling and a poorly timed lunge from Norwood gave him a chance to bring himself back within a goal of Jamie Vardy from 12 yards.
From the spot, he beat Henderson confidently with a fine penalty, his first of the season, and was suddenly back in contention.
That was, however, as close as it got. Twice he laid on chances for others when perhaps he would have been better-placed to shoot, as Sheffield United absorbed more late pressure from the hosts, but the Saints' top scorer - and their first player to break the 20-league-goal barrier since James Beattie in 2003 - was still smiling at full-time, as his side ended the season 11th, on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run.
Chris Wilder's Sheffield United finish ninth, their best finish since reaching the same position in the final season of the old First Division in 1992.
What the managers said...
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: "The second half, the guys did a fantastic job against a difficult opponent. To create so many chances, be that patient, wait for the moment, after half-time it was a good answer for what they demanded of us to do.
"I'm very happy for Che Adams. He has another big chance where he could make it 2-1, but he was fantastic. He needs time to adapt to our game and now it seems that he's getting stronger and stronger. I'm very happy because it's a good start for him now and hopefully we can build up on it.
"One goal I think Danny was missing, the Silver Boot should be for him! But it should shine gold. When you score 22 goals for Southampton in one season, I think that is amazing."
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder: "It's a game we should've won, comfortably. I'm not sure we were the better team, but we certainly had the better chances, especially first half. You have to be clinical, and in the positive results we've had, we have been and we weren't.
"We looked well beaten in the end, but we should've been out of sight with the chances we had before half-time.
"I'm not interested in anything like [manager of the year]. We've lost three games on the spin, it's not for the want of trying, the preparation we've put into the players - sometimes you've just run your race and I think we have done.
"It's been a hell of a long season for us, with everybody else, we've been stretched as a squad, you've seen the players out there late on. The players have given everything for the football club, so I can't be too critical of them."
Man of the match - Che Adams
Adams has had a tough first season in the top flight since a relatively big-money move from Birmingham last summer, but against his former side he showed glimpses that Southampton may enjoy the fruits of their persistence in his development.
Three goals in as many games is a fine return for a man with only one in the rest of the entire season, and as well as his double against the Blades, he was close to completing a hat-trick but for a wonderful Jack Robinson tackle.
- Southampton have gone unbeaten in seven consecutive Premier League games (W4 D3) within the same season for the first time since November 2013 (eight).
- Sheffield United end the 2019-20 season having lost three straight Premier League games for the first time since April 2007.
- This was the third time Southampton won a Premier League game in which they conceded the first goal this season (also v Watford in Nov 2019 and Leicester in Jan 2020); they only did so twice in 2017-18 and 2018-19 combined before this campaign.
- Only strikers Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset (both six) have scored more Premier League goals this season for Sheffield United than midfielder John Lundstram (five).