Harry Kane marked his 100th Tottenham appearance with the clinical finish that lifted his side into the Premier League’s top four with a 2-0 win at Southampton on Saturday.
England striker Kane bagged the 47th goal of his Tottenham career five minutes before half-time and young midfielder Dele Alli added the second moments later to give the north Londoners their first win in four Premier League matches.
It was the perfect response from Mauricio Pochettino’s team after last weekend’s surprise home defeat against Newcastle ended their 14-match unbeaten league run.
Tottenham climb above Manchester United into fourth place following Pochettino’s second win in three meetings with his former club since quitting Southampton in May 2014.
Mid-table Southampton are without a win in their last six matches in all competitions, a barren spell that includes four defeats in their last five league games.
Saints manager Ronald Koeman had been criticised for adopting a cautious approach in recent weeks as he frets about a potential slide towards the relegation zone and this error-strewn display will do nothing to silence the doubters.
Initially, it seemed they had refound their rhythm and Senegal winger Sadio Mane’s early shot was deflected over by Toby Alderweireld.
However, Mane wasted an even better chance when he met Dusan Tadic’s low cross with a tame shot that was too close to Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Those misses proved fatal because, after a quiet opening, Tottenham took charge from the moment Alderweireld headed onto the roof of the net from Christian Eriksen’s free-kick.
Kane had his first sight of goal with a low drive from an angle that was well saved by Paulo Gazzaniga.
Southampton didn’t heed the warning and Kane took advantage of some sloppy defending to put Pochettino’s side ahead in the 40th minute.
Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele combined to set Kane sprinting clear of flat-footed Saints defender Virgil van Dijk and the England star kept his cool to slip a cool finish past Gazzaniga for his 11th club goal of the season.
If that was a generous gift from the Southampton defence, there was another pre-Christmas present for Tottenham to enjoy three minutes later.
This time Kyle Walker was allowed to advance unchecked to the Southampton area before crossing to the back post, where England international Alli was left unmarked to slot home as the home defence stood and looked at each other in confusion.
Tottenham had lost more points from winning positions than any other side in the Premier League this season.
But Saints needed to respond quickly after the interval to induce any anxiety in the visitors and Graziano Pelle didn’t help their cause by heading limply wide.
That was the signal for Southampton to go back in their shell and Tottenham were never seriously troubled in a second half stroll.