JAMES Ward-Prowse and Danny Ings struck two late goals in five dramatic minutes as Saints won at home for the first time this season.

With Saints trailing to Ismaila Sarr’s first-half goal, Ings equalised in the 78th minute before Ward-Prowse secured Saints' first St Mary’s win since April with a stunning free-kick.

Ings bundled in his eighth goal in nine games at the near post after Moussa Djenepo beat his man on the byline. 

Replays later revealed that the winger handled the ball before beating his man and providing the assist, but the footage was seen too late for VAR to intervene.

Then, in the 83rd minute, Ward-Prowse curled in a wonderful free-kick from the left edge of the penalty area, securing a vital win against the only team below Saints at the start of play. 

Saints recalled Djenepo in place of the injured Stuart Armstrong while Michael Obafemi was handed his first St Mary’s start under Ralph Hasnhuttl.

But Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg soon betrayed the nerves in the Saints camp with a horrible back pass, gifting the ball to Ismaila Sarr, who thankfully drove straight at a grateful Alex McCarthy.

Hojbjerg nearly atoned with Saints’ first shot of the evening, chesting the ball down on the edge of the box before sending a dipping right-footed volley just over the bar.

Nathan Redmond linked well with the overlapping Bertrand before firing straight at Foster but Sarr capitalised on another error to give Watford their 24th-minute lead.

An awkward bounce off Jack Stephens’ knee effectively put the Senegalese through and he responded by firing his first Premier League goal past Alex McCarthy.

It could easily have been worse at half-time.

When Jose Holebas delivered an outswinging left-flank free-kick to the back post, Sarr met it with a brilliant volley. McCarthy did well to save it with an oustretched leg, but Saints continued to be picked apart.

Will Hughes, playing just behind Watford's front two, put through Gerard Deulofeu, whose cross-shot was palmed behind by McCarthy.

Boos rang out as Saints  were restricted to shots from distance but Ward-Prowse came close to equalising when he improvised with a clever flick from Cedric’s cross that was just off target.

Saints continued to look disjointed, littering St Mary’s with misplaced passes, and Sarr continued to threaten, cutting in from the left flank before firing another effort over.

But the introduction of Shane Long and Sofiane Boufal just before the hour swung the momentum in Saints’ favour.

Boufal produced some mesmerising trickery and Long brought some much-needed energy to the attack.

He won a corner with his first touch, a header from a Ward-Prowse flag kick and had a first-time shot tipped on to the bar following Boufal’s cross from the left.

Long also had an effort cleared off the line before Ings equalised.

Djenepo, who had a penalty appeal rightly turned down via a VAR check, got away without one when footage late showed he scooped the ball up with his hand as he beat his man on the byline before finding Ings for the equaliser.

Then, after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was fouled, Ward-Prowse stepped up to take a free kick that will live long in the memory.

Saints were grateful when Andre Gray volleyed wide with the goal at his mercy in injury time as Saints held on.

SAINTS:McCarthy, Cedric (Valery 76), Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand; Djenepo, Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse; Redmond (Boufal 57); Ings, Obafemi (Long 57).

WATFORD: Foster, Mariappa, Masina, Cathcart; Kiko Femenia (Foulquier 82), Capoue, Doucoure, Holebas; Hughes (Chaloboah 74); Deulofeu (Gray 67), Sarr.