Christian Eriksen produced a moment of late quality to give Tottenham a vital 1-0 win over Brighton which strengthens their grip on a top-four place in the Premier League.
It appeared for the majority of the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that Mauricio Pochettino’s men would not be able to capitalise on Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all dropping points over the Easter weekend as they were frustrated by an 11-man visiting defence.
But Eriksen came to the rescue in the 88th minute when he drilled a low 25-yard shot into the bottom corner, giving Spurs a fourth win from four in their new home after total domination.
The win moved them to 70 points, four ahead of Arsenal in fifth place, and they look set to book a fourth year of Champions League football with three games remaining.
For Brighton, who defended stoutly for much of the game, conceding so late would have left them feeling deflated but they can have no complaints and they remain just three points ahead of Cardiff.
It was clear that they had not come to play an expansive game and with Spurs starting all of their fit and available big guns it soon became an exercise in home attack versus away defence.
But the hosts were never going to find it easy to search for a way through the 11 Brighton men behind the ball and clear-cut chances were proving difficult to come by in the opening 45 minutes.
They were denied by some heroic defending in the 20th minute as Lewis Dunk blocked Jan Vertonghen’s low shot, with a goalmouth scramble ensuing while they peppered Mat Ryan’s goal with long-distance efforts as Vertonghen, Eriksen and Lucas Moura all teed off.
Spurs did find themselves susceptible to a rare Brighton counter attack as Florin Andone charged down Toby Alderweireld’s attempted pass just outside his own penalty area and raced the entire length of the pitch only to be stopped by a fine Danny Rose tackle.
Pochettino’s men could have gone at half-time in front had it not been for a great Ryan save.
Alli superbly controlled Kieran Trippier’s clever ball in but Ryan got fingertips to his instinctive left-footed shot, with Shane Duffy in the right place to clear things off the line.
Spurs upped the ante after the restart and set up camp in Brighton’s half as the search for the opener resumed.
Again clear opportunities proved elusive as Brighton defended for their lives and it was long-distance efforts that provided the most threat.
Eriksen sent a curling effort rising just over the crossbar while Ryan superbly clawed Rose’s vicious effort.
It was incessant Tottenham attacking and they finally began to get closer as the woodwork denied Alderweireld as he shot on the turn from a corner before Alli blazed over from a good position.
Son Heung-min, so often the hero for Spurs when they need a goal, then screwed an effort just wide as there was no let-up for Brighton.
Alderweireld had another effort deflected while Eriksen tested Ryan as it looked like Spurs were going to be held to their first goalless draw in 68 games.
But the Dane had other ideas at the end as he fired home to give Spurs a deserved three.