Southampton were dealt a major blow in their fight for Premier League survival following a 2-1 defeat to 10-man Wolves at St Mary’s Stadium.
The home side had an extra player for two-thirds of Saturday’s fixture after Mario Lemina’s controversial dismissal with only 27 minutes on the clock.
But after Carlos Alcaraz opened the scoring moments before Lemina’s sending-off, Jan Bednarek comically bundled into his own net with debutant Joao Gomes scoring the winner in the closing stages.
Nathan Jones will face further scrutiny over his position as a chorus of boos rang around St Mary’s at the final whistle with supporters aiming the chant, “get out of our club”, and “you don’t know what you’re doing” at the beleaguered Welshman.
A week on from Jones’s bizarre post-Brentford defeat rant, in which he claimed he had “compromised principles” since taking over at Southampton, the anxiety was etched over his face before Saturday’s game, taking his seat in the dugout pensively chewing gum.
But his move to hand full debuts to new arrivals’ Paul Onuachu, the 6ft 7in striker tasked to lead Southampton’s line, and Ghana international Kamaldeen Sulemana, in addition to a first Premier League start to Alcaraz, looked as though it had paid dividends.
The visitors failed to clear a set-piece and when Alcaraz’s first shot was blocked by Craig Dawson, it was the Saints man who was quickest to react, pinging a half-volley off the turf, off the woodwork and past a despairing Jose Sa after 24 minutes.
Jones also had card-happy referee Jarred Gillett to thank for booking Lemina with his first challenge of the game after just nine minutes, and then awarding a second yellow to the midfielder for an apparent show of dissent.
It was the first time in Jones’ Premier League regime that his side had taken the lead, and with the extra-man advantage, it appeared to be Southampton’s match to lose.
However, with half-time approaching, Matheus Cunha fired a warning to Southampton when he held off Bednarek only to blaze his shot over the bar.
Ten minutes into the second half and Sulemana should have doubled his side’s lead when he capitalised on a poor back pass only for Sa to pounce. Moments later, Onuachu fell in the penalty area but his appeal for a spot-kick was waved away.
Half-time substitute Adama Traore caused Southampton hearts to skip a beat with an hour gone when he cut in dangerously from the right-hand side but his shot was blocked.
Julen Lopetegui’s side, vastly improved under the Spaniard’s tutelage, might have had a player less but it was the men in green taking control and with 17 minutes to go they got their equaliser.
Diego Costa and fellow substitute Traore both had shots blocked, but Bednarek stumbled over his own feet and the ball, somehow, ended up in his own net.
The atmosphere was beginning to turn against Jones and then debutant Gomes provided what could be the killer blow for the Southampton boss with a fine half-volley guided past Gavin Bazunu.
As Gillett blew for full-time, Jones headed straight for the tunnel as the home supporters vented their frustrations at the crushing loss. Saints remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League, four points from safety.