After the tense and fractious end to Mourinho’s tenure, this victory should restore confidence ahead of Sunday’s daunting Carabao Cup Final against Manchester City, particularly as it came without injured talisman Harry Kane.
Tottenham’s performance was far from perfect – and came against a Saints side in freefall, who had lost 11 of their 14 previous top-flight matches and last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final – but there were plenty of positives, not least the way Mason’s side rallied from a goal down.
Trailing to Danny Ings’s header at the interval, Mason – the youngest-ever Premier League manager at 29 years old – deserves credit for inspiring an improved second-half display, as Gareth Bale equalised with a lovely floaty finish on the hour and Heung-min Son scoring the winner from the penalty spot in stoppage-time.
Mason’s players also displayed an impressive resolve to come from behind and recover from the disappointment of Son’s goal being disallowed by the VAR ten minutes from time for a Lucas Moura offside.
The move in the build-up to the South Korean’s ruled-out strike was another reason for optimism, as Spurs played through Saints with a quick passing move that was reminiscent of their best football under Mason’s mentor, Mauricio Pochettino.
Spurs will still go into Sunday’s match at Wembley as underdogs but there are now reasons to think they can spring an upset on a City side who will surely have one eye on the Champions League semi-final first leg three days later.
Bale underlines quality again
A moment of Bale brilliance proved the turning point for Spurs, the Welshman picking up a loose ball after Lucas’s shot was blocked and curling a lovely effort home at the far post.
It was yet another reminder of the Welshman’s enduring quality on his first start since the north London derby defeat to Arsenal last month.
After the match at the Emirates, Mourinho reverted to his policy of ignoring his star loanee, despite Bale’s fine run of form in the build-up, and Spurs fans will always be left to wonder what may have been this season – particularly if the 31-year-old is not back next year.
It was no surprise that Mason restored the fan-favourite to the line-up and it did not look like indulgence, with Bale Spurs’s brightest forward before the goal, testing Alex McCarthy with a long-range effort before he equalised.
With Kane touch-and-go for Sunday, Bale will surely start again and having a match-winner of his experience and quality on the pitch may just prove decisive.
Tottenham fans protest club owners after European Super League collapse
Small protest underlines supporter unrest
There was a strange mix of emotions among Spurs fans before the match.
The demise of Mourinho and appointment of Mason, a fan-favourite who has spent 20 of his 29 years at the club, was cause for celebration and more optimism than in months.
But the club’s participation in the Super League has animated the fanbase and led to strong sentiment against chairman Daniel Levy and the owners, ENIC.
Before the match, around 100 fans gathered outside the stadium, with banners and placards calling for Levy to go.
“We want our Tottenham back,” and “Get out of our club,” chanted the group.
The protest was small and nothing like the scenes outside Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. But nonetheless it was something – and perhaps the start of something bigger.
The club’s Supporters’ Trust is due to gauge fan-mood towards Levy at a meeting on Friday, which may result in more organised calls for change.
There is also the fact that 2,000 Spurs fans will attend Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final against Man City at Wembley, where any unrest against the ownership would be more noteworthy.