The Wales international broke the deadlock with a solo effort from outside the box with just four minutes remaining. And the goal means Tottenham can now head to Chelsea on Wednesday confident of getting something out of the game in hand both sides possess over Arsenal in their fascinating three-way tussle for the two available qualification places.
The result was nonetheless harsh on Southampton, whose performance had been worthy of at least a point. But the south coast side know as well as anyone how potent Bale can be, having sold him to Tottenham for a fee rising to £7 million ($10.9 million, 8.3 million euros) in 2007. Kick-off at White Hart Lane was delayed by 30 minutes because of traffic problems caused by a chemical spillage that closed part of the M25 motorway.
When the game did get under way, there was an early chance for Spurs striker Jermain Defoe when the Southampton back line struggled to clear, but his shot ended up in the side-netting. Tottenham were forced into a change 10 minutes before half-time when Mousa Dembele, who had been a pre-match injury doubt, was forced off.
City play out draw
Meanwhile, in Swansea, a flat Manchester City played out a goalless draw with League Cup winners Swansea City in a typical end-of-season affair at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. With little at stake for either side in south Wales, this encounter lacked any real intensity, although FA Cup finalists City had more chances to come away with the three points.
Substitute Edin Dzeko had the clearest opening of all, firing wide from six yards with the goal gaping after being set up by Pablo Zabaleta, and City’s failure to win means they could still be caught by second-placed Chelsea.
Swansea, meanwhile, have now gone seven Premier League games without a win and are struggling to hold on to their place in the top half of the table at the end of a campaign that will be forever be remembered for their triumph in February’s League Cup final against Bradford City.