Brighton need a point from their last two games to stay in the Premier League after Danny Ings’ 20th league goal of the season denied them victory at Southampton.
The Seagulls would have secured a place in the top flight with a win and went ahead through Neal Maupay’s low shot.
But the Saints improved in the second half and deservedly equalised when Ings easily beat goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Ings is the first Saints player to score 20 goals in a Premier League season since James Beattie in 2002-03.
The former Liverpool forward was once again outstanding in attack for the home side, having an effort rightly ruled out for offside in the first half and cracking a shot against the post before he eventually did score.
His goal also ensured that Southampton did not set a new club record of 11 home defeats in a Premier League season.
Brighton are six points clear of 18th-placed Bournemouth with six available, and have a better goal difference, but a point against Newcastle next Monday would cement their place in the top flight.
Ings excels again
Ings predicted this would be his “most exciting season” when he joined permanently from Liverpool last summer for £20m – and he was spot on.
That fee looks cheap now – at £1m a goal – and only Jamie Vardy has scored more in the league.
Ings had a match-high five shots and always looked a threat, as well as twice going close to creating a goal for substitute Che Adams in a second half dominated by Southampton.
“The progress he has made in this year is amazing,” said manager Ralph Hasenhuttl after the game.
“He is fit, he works so hard, he wins the ball so many times. This is definitely a striker who deserves so many goals.”
The Saints’ poor home form remains somewhat of a mystery – they are the only club in the division to earn more points on the road – but they are unbeaten in five games now and are ending the season strongly.
They may soon lose midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, however. News broke during the match that Everton have opened talks with Southampton for the Denmark international – who actually filled in at right-back to good effect in the first half.
Potter close to safety
Brighton took a gamble last summer when they dispensed with safe pair of hands Chris Hughton and appointed Swansea’s Graham Potter – but it has undoubtedly paid off.
Potter has introduced a more attractive and fluid style of play and has increased the Seagulls’ numbers for possession, successful passes, goals, shots, clean sheets and touches in the opposition’s penalty area. Crucially, he has got them all but safe with two games to spare.
He has also now taken them beyond last season’s points total of 36, and could yet engineer a best finish since 1982, when thy finished 13th in the old Division One table.
Glenn Murray returned for a rare start up front and he made Maupay’s goal with a flick-on, which the former Brentford striker buried for his 10th goal of the season.
The Seagulls were on top in the first half but then showed fine defensive commitment to keep the hosts down to one goal in reply.
Southampton had 15 efforts in the second half, with Brighton goalkeeper Ryan making one sensational save in particular when he turned Jannik Vestergaard’s 25-yard strike against the crossbar.
Centre-backs Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Dan Burn also made six blocks and seven interceptions between them as Brighton hung on at times.
“We have found resilience away from home and all credit to the players,” Potter said.
“Our defensive effort was fantastic.”
Man of the match – Lewis Dunk (Brighton)
‘At half-time it was a disaster’
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: “At half-time it was a disaster, we were not the team you have seen in the last weeks in the first half. But we played much quicker, made the right decisions and it was a good game in the second half.
“We made a few changes, maybe too many but what can you do? We didn’t find the right tools in the first half but it was a very intensive rebuild at half-time.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter: “Every point is hard earned in the Premier League. We’ve got two more games to get some more and this was an important point.
“Mat Ryan wasn’t happy about his performance against Manchester City but that’s the ups and downs of football, sometimes you’re the hero and some times you’re the villain.
“If we are being honest, Southampton were much better in the second half and pushed us back. We had to defend with our lives and make blocks.”
Southampton head down the coast to struggling Bournemouth on Sunday (14:00 BST), while Brighton can secure their place in the Premier League with a point at home to Newcastle on Monday (18:00).