Substitute Steve de Ridder earned 10-man Southampton an unlikely-looking point in a 1-1 draw at Reading on Saturday evening.
The Belgian winger finished sublimely after latching on to a Guly do Prado’s through ball to earn the npower Championship leaders a 1-1 draw with 10 minutes remaining.
De Ridder’s goal saw Reading drop points from a winning position for the first time this season, although their unbeaten run now stretches to seven matches.
Having been thwarted by goalkeeper Kelvin Davis throughout the first half, the Royals looked set to secure victory when Mikele Leigertwood blasted home in the 71st minute.
Saints’ predicament got worse when skipper Dean Hammond was sent off minutes later, before De Ridder wriggled free to extend Southampton’s lead at the top of the table to three points.
The match started at a good pace and the visitors came close within the opening minutes, Richard Chaplow playing a neat one-two with David Connolly only to see his effort snuffed out at the near post.
Saints were possibly fortunate not to see Jose Fonte sent off in the 13th minute when, aware a bouncing ball would leave Simon Church through on goal, he handled on the edge of the box.
The Portuguese defender only received a yellow card but almost handed Reading a scoring opportunity shortly afterwards, rebounding a Jobi McAnuff shot across the face of goal.
The Royals were looking dangerous and a 20-yard drive from Church saw Davis tip wide, before the Saints goalkeeper then flicked over Leigertwood’s 30-yard-strike on the half-hour mark.
Adam Le Fondre was next to have a pop at goal and was thwarted again shortly after as the home side searched for the opener.
Aaron Martin replaced the yellow-carded Fonte at the break and the Saints backline was soon forced into action, with Danny Fox clearing off the line after Alex Pearce nodded goalwards.
While Reading continued to attack, Saints looked more creative and only the quick reactions of Adam Federici stopped substitute Martin’s header in the 54th minute.
McAnuff saw a shot blocked at the other end moments later, before Saints returned to the attack and Chaplow forced Federici to save.
The visitors came closer still when Rickie Lambert slipped through Fox, only for a last-ditch block from Kaspars Gorkss to prevent the left-back’s goalbound strike.
Despite Saints’ second-half renaissance, they fell behind in the 71st minute as Leigertwood struck across goal after a McAnuff free-kick came back off the post.
And any hopes of a Southampton comeback looked to be ended when captain Hammond was sent off five minutes later for a second bookable offence.
However, substitute De Ridder latched on to a ball by Guly and jinked past Shaun Cummings to unleash a shot that rattled in off the bar in front of the 4,203 visiting fans.
Mathieu Manset had calls for a penalty turned down as the clock wound down, with the sides sharing a draw in front of Reading’s largest crowd of the season.