There is big trouble brewing at Saints.

Defeat to Crystal Palace leaves them separated from the bottom three only by goal difference, and with just a few really winnable looking home matches left in the campaign.

And what an awful night it was for Saints as the Eagles swooped for the three points.

If there is one thing that Saints had proved adept at this season it’s taking advantage of some promising situations when they are presented to them.

Their four wins are evidence of exactly that.

A late penalty against West Ham, a terrible Crystal Palace team rooted to the bottom of the table early in the season, a West Brom side on the wane at the end of the Tony Pulis era and Everton in meltdown post Ronald Koeman.

Nothing should be taken away from Saints for winning those matches. It’s three points no matter how you get them, and it’s a decent habit to have.

For Saints the problem has been picking up wins under what you might describe as more normal circumstances.

The visit of Palace to St Mary’s was a case of the result mattering far more than a performance, feeling as it did such a vital match at a vital time.

It seemed rather handy then that circumstances conspired to provide another winning environment for Saints to grab hold of.

In a way you had to feel a little sorry for Palace. This was also a massive game for them, but they were considerably handicapped and Saints benefitted by the fixture schedule.

Saints enjoyed the comparative luxury of two full days off after their exertions at Old Trafford in their previous match.

Palace had one measly day to get over holding Manchester City to a goalless draw.

Not the fault of Saints, or Palace, but always likely to be a factor.

That was then heightened by the conditions.

Wind and rain, a sticky and cut-up pitch which made running heavy going, and also had the added bonus of partly neutralising Palace’s biggest attacking threat, Wilfried Zaha, without Saints having to get as involved themselves as might have been the case.

After chairman Ralph Krueger’s words earlier in the day, the pressure had been eased on Mauricio Pellegrino, and his team, but despite all the promising omens, this time Saints didn’t take advantage.

And that means recriminations, questions and no shortage of worry ahead.

Saints handled the difficult conditions better in the first period.

They nearly got a goal just seconds after the kick-off as Ryan Bertrand’s header was laid off to Shane Long by Dusan Tadic, but the striker fired well over.

If that felt that an all too familiar tale for Long in recent weeks and months then there was to be a sense of relief when he finally broke a scoring drought that went back to February and 1320 minutes of Premier League action.

Just a minute after Pierre- Emile Hojbjerg had a shot well saved by the diving Wayne Hennessey, Bertrand’s left wing cross eventually came out to Jeremy Pied on the right, and he squared to Long level with the penalty spot.

There was no hint of hesitation, worry or lack of form as he confidently finished first time right footed into the bottom corner.

Palace were far less of a threat than had been anticipated, due surely to their extra fatigue, but always suggested that they could produce a lively counter attack.

Zaha hit a poor shot when given half a chance early on while two long range drives from Andros Townsend were saved by Alex McCarthy.

Saints were undone by a bizarre half time shift in mindset.

With Palace having looked so there for the taking, for some reason Saints sat back.

They seemed as if they had decided that one was enough and from the early moments appeared to be running down the clock and content to be on a containment job.

Palace made positive changes, Saints failed to adapt.

It was a big mistake and they paid dearly.

Palace weren’t great but as soon as the momentum had switched it was impossible to turn it back.

There was a warning as McCarthy had to save well down to his left from Christian Benteke before Palace equalised on 69 minutes.

A free kick was cleared out to Townsend whose cross was headed back across goal by Benteke to the grateful James McArthur totally unmarked and able to side foot a volley home.

Luka Milivojevic came close with an effort on the turn in the box but produced an unstoppable shot with ten minutes remaining to stun Saints.

He had time and space in a central position 20 yards out after being picked out by a square pass from the right but opted to shoot first time. His right footed effort bent wildly into the bottom corner, giving McCarthy no chance.

It almost got even worse as Saints failed to deal with a long ball and were relieved that Zaha fired over.

Not that it ultimately mattered. The boos that rang around the ground at full time told their own story.

Krueger gave Pellegrino his backing, and despite this result surely cannot about turn this quickly.

Saints pride themselves on not making kneejerk decisions, including signings, but the manager will need to be provided with more tools in the transfer market.

Make no mistake, Saints are in big trouble.