Reading have drawn level on points with Saints at the top of the Championship table after beating Brighton 1-0 at the Amex Stadium.
Ian Harte’s deflected free kick on 14 minutes proved to be the difference between the sides, though the Seagulls might have got something had Ashley Barnes converted a second half penalty rather than have it saved by Adam Federici.
The three points doesn’t have too much impact on the automatic promotion situation with Saints and Reading both now on 82 points, six ahead of third placed West Ham.
However, it does up the stakes ahead of Friday night’s St Mary’s clash between the top two, who are separated only by Saints’ superior goal difference.
West Ham will no doubt be hoping that Friday’s game ends in a win for one side or the other and that they can then put on a little pressure by beating Brighton themselves at the weekend to cut the gap on one of the sides to three points with what will be three games left.