Harry Kane scored the opener as Tottenham moved ahead of Manchester United with a 2-0 win at struggling Southampton.
Kane beat three men on the counter-attack before curling home his 11th goal of the season as Spurs hit two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half, the second a close-range finish from Dele Alli.
The result moves Tottenham above Manchester United, who lost at home to Norwich, while Southampton sit 12th after six games without a victory.
Saints’ five league wins this season had all come against teams in the bottom seven of the table before kick-off and Ronald Koeman will be concerned about his side’s loss of form, with the relegation zone only seven points away.
The hosts were in fact the better side for much of the first half but they lacked a cutting edge with Graziano Pelle, recalled to the starting line-up here, and Sadio Mane now managing only one goal in their last 13 games combined.
Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld – the latter prized from the clutches of Southampton when he joined Spurs from Atletico Madrid in the summer – have been integral to Tottenham’s success this season and the trio played a key part again in keeping Saints at bay.
They were called into action early on as Mane twice went close in the opening 10 minutes but Alderweireld did well to block the striker’s first effort before an excellent low save from Lloris denied the second.
Spurs struggled to find a foothold and their frustrations boiled over as Lloris berated his full-back Kyle Walker for not accepting a goal-kick short, and moments later fired a low pass into Eric Dier just to make his point.
Their attempts to play out from the back were made more difficult by Southampton’s determined pressing and Mane broke through again, only to be thwarted this time by a sliding Vertonghen.
Tottenham had been on the back foot for much of the half but stunned Saints before the break with two quick-fire goals, the first a brilliant solo effort from Kane in the 40th minute.
It began with Erik Lamela and Alli both evading challenges on the counter-attack before Kane drove past two players, nicked the ball away from Virgil van Dijk and curled his finish into the bottom corner.
Saints were shell shocked and there was worse to come moments later when Walker’s cross found Alli at the back post and as the hosts stopped for offside, he had time to take a touch and slot home.
Southampton came out with renewed intent after the restart, as Pelle tested Lloris with a curling long-range effort, but there was little to really trouble Tottenham as Koeman threw on Shane Long, Juanmi and James Ward-Prowse in the hope of turning the tide.
It was not until injury-time, however, that Saints looked like sparking a comeback as Ward-Prowse’s low shot drew another strong save from Lloris but the home fans were already filtering out as Spurs held on for the points.