An embarrassing 9-0 defeat to Leicester in October appeared to signal the end of Ralph Hasenhüttl's time in Southampton. But on Saturday, the Austrian took revenge against the Foxes with his resurgent Saints.
In October last year, a rain-soaked Ralph Hasenhüttl was desolate on the sidelines of a dreary St Mary's Stadium. Most thought the Southampton coach was a dead man walking after witnessing his side capitulate to a 9-0 loss against Leicester City.
It was the club's worst defeat in its 134-year history and the equal biggest thumping in Premier League history. On top of that, Southampton were mired in the relegation zone.
Two further losses saw them sitting on just eight points after 12 matches with the league's worst defense. No one could have predicted the scenes almost three months later, as Southampton returned to face tormentors Leicester on Saturday.
The rematch ended with Hasenhüttl leaping high in the air at the final whistle as the former Bundesliga coach celebrated wildly with his players. The Saints vanquished the demons from last year to record a come-from-behind 2-1 win against one of the Premier League's best teams this season.
But this latest victory was merely a continuation of an incredible transformation in the last few months, with the Saints now taking 12 points from a possible 15 in their last five games.
A change in formation – ditching a back three to move to a modified 4-4-2 – and a strengthened mentality have combined to elevate Southampton firmly into a mid-table position.
"We didn't want to have revenge. We wanted to show ourselves how far we are now in our development. This was the only target we had,” he told the BBC post-match.
"It [the 9-0 loss] was a very important game for us in this season. We changed completely our mind and worked so hard to find a successful way.
"The transformation we've made in the last couple of weeks, months… I'm very happy I can get this feeling with this team.”
Hasenhüttl wants more
From his lowest ebb as a coach, Hasenhüttl has bounced back with aplomb and repaid the faith the club showed in him when most would have cut their losses.
Despite falling behind in just the 14th minute, the Saints bettered Leicester over 90 minutes. Even in the final moments, the former RB Leipzig boss had his team pressing the Foxes back into their own half, hunting for that decisive third goal. The team has refused to change their mentality and tactics against the bigger teams, which has resulted in wins over Chelsea, Spurs, and now Leicester.
Eight points now separate Southampton from the dreaded relegation zone and the six points between them and a Europa League spot is looking like a more likely prospect as Hasenhüttl targets further improvement.
"We don't think that this is now the end of our development. This is exactly what message I tried to give them before the game. It's not a final or revenge, it's an answer for ourselves how far we are in our development,” Hasenhüttl told BBC.
"I'm full of energy… when your team is playing like this you love to go to work and do everything for this club.”
Loyalty pays off
Hasenhüttl's recovery is proof of how faith in a long-term plan can pay off even in the most desperate scenarios. Upon arriving in Southampton midway through last season, Hasenhüttl saved them from relegation. This season, he was expected to kick on.
Southampton's owners could not have been blamed for shedding Hasenhüttl from their books after a disastrous start to the season which promised so much.
But thanks to their foresight, Saints fans now have much to look forward as the 52-year-old Austrian plots a course to push his team's development to new heights.