Saido Mane’sgoal in the 82nd minute gave Southampton a late winner againstCrystal Palace that lifted them back up to fifth place in the table. The Saintsare now only a point behind fourth placed Manchester United.

TheSenegalese forward’s chip over the despairing Palace keeper, Julian Speroni, ended Southampton’s home goal drought, which lasted since their 2-0 win againstArsenal on New Year’s Day.

As for theEagles, this was their first away defeat since Alan Pardew became their boss inJanuary. For much of the match Palace had less of the ball but themajority of the chances, while the Saints dominated the ball but had few opportunities on goal.

For long periods in the match it looked as though it wasgoing to be the same story for goal-shy Southampton; the visitors were betterorganised and more spread-out after the break and almost hit the net whenWilfried Zaha, 22, struck the post with the most clear cut chance in the 55thminute.

Theeventual goalscorer Mane was Southampton’s best attacking option throughoutthe game but, unfortunately, he missed many opportunities to take the lead inthe first half. To alter the flow of thegame in the second half, Dutchman Ronald Koeman brought on Serbian winger DusanTadic, 26, and his corner almost set up the opener when Graziano Pelle and Japanesedefender Maya Yoshida nearly connected as the ball flew just wide of the backpost.

It was theintroduction of Saints’ youngster James Ward-Prowse that made an impactlater on. Ward-Prowse had only been on the pitch for five minutes when, witheight minutes remaining, his surge towards the box made Julian Speroni pushthe shot straight out towards Mane, who clipped the ball inwith a composed finish.

The resultended a barren spell of four games without a win for Champions League chasingSouthampton.

Even if Champions League qualification may prove to be a step toofar, fifth place in the Premier League, however, would be a massive successand an excellent step in the progression of the south coast side.