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Wes Morgan’s header secured Leicester City a 1-0 home win over Southampton that sends the Foxes seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Graziano Pelle flashed an attempt over Kasper Schmeichel’s crossbar and Danny Simpson denied Sadio Mane before Morgan powerfully headed Leicester into a half-time lead.
With Southampton committing bodies forward in search of an equaliser, the hosts missed several opportunities to seal the victory, but the lack of a second goal did not come back to bite Claudio Ranieri’s men.
Four wins from their final six games will guarantee Leicester, who sat bottom of the top flight one year ago, an astounding title triumph.
Tottenham Hotspur, with the same amount of matches played as the Foxes, sit second following Saturday evening’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool.
Arsenal are third, 11 points behind Leicester but with a game in hand on both of the sides above them.
Southampton’s first defeat in four outings keeps Ronald Koeman’s side in seventh place, ahead of Stoke City on goal difference.
The Saints played with three central defenders at the King Power Stadium, predominately to cope with Leicester’s direct nature, and the Foxes dangerously took advantage of space down the channels during the opening exchanges.
After Pelle had headed too high, though, his superb through ball provided Mane with an excellent chance to give the visitors the lead. The Senegal attacker rounded Schmeichel but Danny Simpson got back impressively to block away Mane’s goal-bound strike.
The Saints continued to press, and Schmeichel had to spectacularly tip a long-range Jose Fonte drive over the crossbar.
Leicester responded to the series of the scares by hitting the front with seven minutes of the first half remaining, as captain Morgan outmuscled Jordy Clasie to head a fine Christian Fuchs cross home, via Fraser Forster’s near post.
Southampton threatened regularly during the early stages of the second half but only a magnificent save from the backpedalling Forster prevented Fonte from inadvertently doubling City’s lead.
Another brilliant Forster stop kept out a close-range Simpson attempt from Jamie Vardy’s ball across goal, although the right-back’s strike was less than clean and accurate.
The England goalkeeper used his right boot to divert an effort from Vardy, ensuring that the home faithful remained anxious until the conclusion.
The King Power erupted in relief and joy on the final whistle, as the Foxes banked a seven-point advantage over Spurs and moved to within touching distance of a guaranteed Champions League spot.
When the Foxes make mathematically sure of playing in Europe’s top club competition next season, a quite incredible feat will have been achieved by Ranieri and his hardworking, disciplined and entertaining troops.
A even more astonishing triumph, however, will be secured by the acquisition of just 12 more points; should Leicester win four times between now and the end of the campaign, even six victorious from six for Spurs will not deny the Foxes.
Given the resoluteness and professionalism of Leicester on Sunday - the win was the East Midlands club’s fourth successive 1-0 triumph - a collapse under late-season pressure appears to be increasingly unlikely.
By David Maher