With their game against Everton in added time, Crouch went for an unsuccessful cross shot instead of wasting precious seconds in time-honoured fashion by taking the ball towards the corner flag and caressing it. The consequences could be expensive for his club.
From a long clearance by their goalkeeper Nigel Martyn, Everton fashioned an equaliser which did no harm to their chances of withstanding Liverpool's challenge for the fourth Champions' League berth this season.
As one Everton substitute, Duncan Ferguson, laid the ball into the path of another, Marcus Bent, who hammered his shot in off the bar, the Southampton manager, Harry Redknapp, seethed. So, too, did his son Jamie, who had made such a worthy contribution to Southampton's domination for much of an enthralling game. Together they took the unfortunate Crouch to task as the teams came off the field moments later, conveniently overlooking the header from the 6ft 7in striker that had put Southampton back in the game in the first place.
Afterwards Redknapp Snr had calmed down enough to say: "He's a striker. It was his instinct to try to score. But the one place we didn't want the ball to go was the goalkeeper's hands.''
So, Everton scored at the death but they had also scored soon after the start, doing so perhaps inevitably through James Beattie, who had moved to Goodison Park for pounds 6m during last month's transfer window. He was welcomed back by a crunching tackle from Nigel Quashie within 60 seconds of the start but the former Saint took less than three minutes to exact retribution. He put his new club ahead with a venomous angled volley.
Beattie's first League goal for Everton was almost followed by another. He met Lee Carsley's lobbed through pass with a shot on the run that brought the best out of Paul Smith, who was deputising for Antti Niemi as the Finn recovers from a cartilage operation.
Smith saved Southampton again when Claus Lundekvam's mistake let in James McFadden, but the goalkeeper was hardly required thereafter. His team's pursuit of an equaliser was not helped by a succession of crosses intended for Crouch that were either over-hit or under-hit. Thankfully for Southampton, Crouch was in the right place when Rory Delap propelled a long throw. Martyn was left transfixed by a looping header.
It was quickly apparent that Crouch had found himself the perfect foil up front in Henri Camara who has arrived on loan from Wolves. Whereas some clubs complement a tall striker with a small one, Southampton are linking their lanky asset with a trickster. "The little fellow was absolute dynamite,'' said Redknapp in admiration of Camara.
The Senegalese forward blazed one early chance high and wide and had another cleared off the line by Alan Stubbs who should have been patting Martyn on the back for saving a third effort at full stretch after he had lost control. In the 56th minute, Camara got the goal he deserved after cutting in from the right on to David Prutton's return pass.
Thereafter, the only issue in doubt seemed to be Southampton's eventual winning margin, but with Graeme Le Saux's piledriver missing the far post by a fraction, Martyn denying Camara yet again and David Weir surviving a blatant handball in the penalty area, Everton rode their luck. "Our spirit is second to none,'' said their manager, David Moyes, reflecting on his team's resistance before the dramatic finale.
Goals: Beattie (4) 0-1; Crouch (36) 1-1; Camara (55) 2-1; Bent (90) 2-2.
Southampton (4-4-2): Smith; Delap, Lundekvam, Davenport, Bernard; Prutton, Redknapp, Quashie, Le Soux; Camara, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Blaney (gk), Svensson, Telfer, Jakobsson, Ormerod.
Everton (4-1-4-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs (Arteta, 60), Pistone; Yobo; McFadden, Carsley (Bent, 46), Cahill, Kilbane (Ferguson, 60); Beattie. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Naysmith.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).
Booked: Everton Hibbert, Arteta.
Man of the match: Camara.
Attendance: 31,509.Reuse content