Southampton stormed back to win an astonishing Championship game against Huddersfield and extend their unbeaten league run to 22 games.
The Saints had trailed 2-0 to goals from Sorba Thomas and David Kasumu, which led to some fans at St Mary’s booing the team off at half-time.
Joe Rothwell sparked the fightback with a spectacular volley and a smart finish from David Brooks’ exquisite pass but Chelsea loanee Alex Matos restored the relegation-haunted Terriers’ lead with his first senior goal.
Staring defeat in the face for the first time since September, Saints hit back with three goals in the last 10 minutes of normal time as Tom Lees put through his own goal and substitutes Sekou Mara and Samuel Edozie turned the game on its head to keep Russell Martin’s team in second place.
Huddersfield stay in 21st place, two points above the bottom three.
The Saints looked like a cert for three points against a team that, despite beating relegation rivals Sheffield Wednesday at home last week, had won just one of their previous 12 away games.
Caretaker manager Jon Worthington, however, has revived the Terriers’ fortunes and they were the better team in the first half, thoroughly deserved their two-goal lead.
Jonathan Hogg bossed midfield and the pace of Thomas and Josh Koroma repeatedly unhinged the home defence, with Matty Pearson and Koroma both going close before Thomas put them ahead in the 37th minute.
Town looked more like the team that reached the play-offs two seasons ago as Brodie Spencer freed Jack Rudoni and, from his pull-back, Thomas lashed a shot into the bottom corner.
Just before half-time, Thomas’ pace undid Saints again as he raced into the box. His cross was behind Koroma but fell for Kasumu, who crashed in his first goal for the club off the crossbar.
The smattering of boos as the players left the field were a comment on the poverty of Saints’ first-half display, but substitute Rothwell hauled them back into it with two goals in a minute.
The first was a stunner, as goalkeeper Lee Nicholls punched Stuart Armstrong’s corner to the edge of the area and the Bournemouth loanee hammered an unstoppable volley into the top corner.
The mood around the stadium changed in an instant and the fans were still celebrating when Rothwell, who had replaced the injured Flynn Downes in the first half, struck again.
Running on to fellow Bournemouth loan signing David Brooks’ perceptive ball, he found the far corner to level it up.
The Terriers, who look refreshed under Worthington, refused to be daunted and they were ahead again in the 65th minute as Matos let fly from distance and saw his shot loop off a defender and fly over the head of despairing goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.
With the clock ticking down and both sides attacking with abandon, Rothwell provided again – his cross being put into his own goal by Lees to make it 3-3.
Russell Martin had sent on Mara and Edozie as he sought the win and they came up with the late clinching goals.
Mara had been the hero of the FA Cup fourth round replay win over Coventry in midweek, and he made it three goals in four days with his first touch of the game, with Brooks again the provider.
Edozie, back from injury, made sure of the points in the last minute of normal time after being teed up by Mara in a goalmouth scramble.
Southampton manager Russell Martin told:
“I’m tired, but I’m proud of the players, and of the supporters for the way in the second half they stuck with the team and helped us get back into it.
“I saw them [Huddersfield] win 4-0 last week and they came here with absolutely nothing to lose, and so much energy and freedom.
“We were really lacking in energy and intensity, got sucker-punched and didn’t cope with that well, and we didn’t show enough courage in the first half. I saw some stuff I haven’t seen for a long time.
“I told them at half time it was an opportunity to show their spirit, because it’s easier when you are winning and things are going well.
“To get back to 2-2 and have the high, the feeling in the stadium, and then go behind again, and the way they dealt with that, the resilience and the impact of the subs, was amazing.
“You have to go on energy sometimes, and Sekou [Mara] has been so good. He came on and was outstanding again.
“Joe Rothwell was immense, David Brooks showed the quality he has, Kamaldeen [Sulemana] came on and gave us so much threat, and Sam Edozie was outstanding, and Sekou, but the guys at the back who had a really difficult first half, really stood up.”
Huddersfield caretaker manager Jon Worthington told:
“I hate losing football matches, and the players do as well, so we’re disappointed from that perspective, but I told the lads that we’ll take the positives. There was real intent from the first minute, I was proud of their efforts and they followed the game-plan to a T, but Southampton are a real quality side and came strong at the end.
“The last thing I wanted to do was come here, sit in a low block and lose 2-0. We had to respect them for the run they’re on but I believe in this group of players and what they can do.
“The plan was, at the right times, to get after them, and we did, but a couple of their goals were worldies, like the (Joe Rothwell) volley, and sometimes you just have to hold your hands up. It was nothing to do with defensive moments.
“At 2-2 we had the character to go again and in that moment we scored but had two or three chances as well where on another day you go on to get a couple of goals advantage.”