The saints nearly died as the forest nears salvation for now

The saints nearly died as the forest nears salvation for now

Nottingham Forest leapt out of the relegation zone and into safety with a 4-3 win over Southampton, whose defeat means they now have to pull off the unlikely task of winning all three of their remaining games to have any hope of survival.

Forest dropped out of the bottom three thanks to a brace from Taiwo Awoniyi, a Morgan Gibbs-White penalty and Danilo’s brilliant team goal to give realistic hope that they can avoid the drop in their first season in the top flight for 23 years.

They made full use of defeats at Leeds and Leicester to climb to 16th place – also leapfrogging previous winners Everton – three points above the drop zone with three games to play.

Southampton’s situation is much grimmer and despite goals from Carlos Alcaraz, Lyanco and James Ward-Prowse to keep them in the game, their 10-year stay in the top flight will end if they fail to beat Fulham on Saturday, while results elsewhere they might as well send them down even if they win.

It was a thrilling end-to-end encounter at the City Ground that completed a stunning holiday goal bonanza as the 21 goals scored on Monday is a Premier League record for a three match day.

This clash was always going to have a huge say in who goes down and Forest fans got the memo, providing a chilling atmosphere before kick-off.

And after an edgy start in the pouring rain, where Southampton were the better side, two goals in three minutes from Awoniyi lifted the roof off the City Ground.

The first came in the 18th minute after a devastating speed attack, where after a quick free-kick, Danilo’s long ball freed Brennan Johnson down the right and his first time cross was perfect for Awoniyi who fired home from 10 yard.

The Nigerian international soon doubled his lead, and in style too, with an instinctive volley after Danilo’s improvised pass into the box.

Southampton had folded and were in danger of being swept away, but gave themselves a lifeline in the 25th minute when Gibbs-White’s loose ball enabled a quick counter-attack which saw Stuart Armstrong play Alcaraz and the Argentine converted from close range.

There were some dicey moments as Saints pushed for a leveller, but Forest crucially restored their two-goal lead just before the break.

Johnson stepped in to take the ball off Ainsley Maitland-Niles and it was at the end of a kick, with referee Michael Oliver taking his time deliberating before pointing to the penalty spot.

Gibbs-White made no mistakes from the penalty, sending his shot wide inside to give Forest a big half-time lead.

Southampton knew they were in the last chance saloon and came shooting out, reducing their arrears in the 51st minute.

Lyanco surged further up from Ward-Prowse corner to power a header that was too hot for Keylor Navas to handle.

This totally changed the complexion of the game and Forest suddenly latched on as the Saints chased an unlikely equaliser.

Another header from Lyanco from a corner caused havoc in the Forest six yard box as Navas fell under a barrage of dangerous set pieces.

But the hosts relaxed in the 73rd minute with a beautiful team goal converted by Danilo.

Johnson moved up the right, centered for Gibbs-White, whose delightfully deft shooting carried the Brazilian high and he made no mistakes for his third goal in three games.

Felipe had another goal disallowed in stoppage time and then the Saints were given a lifeline when Sam Surridge fouled Romeo Lavia, with Ward-Prowse sending the late penalty straight into centre.

But Forest held on to leave Southampton staring into the second tier abyss.

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