Ronald Koeman was critical of his Southampton side after watching them struggle for 85 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland.
It wasn't until sub Jermain Defoe scored the opening goal with five minutes to go that Koeman's side produced a consistent spell of pressure.
Sunderland, who invited the pressure on by sitting too deep, eventually caved in the 93rd minute, with former transfer target Virgil van Dijk finally beating Vito Mannone.
The Saints boss hopes the dramatic equaliser can spur his men back to form after a disappointing slump.
Southampton have now gone three matches without a win, with Koeman accepting Tuesday's 2-0 loss at Bournemouth dented collective confidence.
"It's strange that we played some of our best football in the last five minutes," said Koeman.
"And it was a great goal. But the first 85 minutes was disappointing.
"My question to the players was why did we show that spirit and belief in the last five minutes when I saw them struggling before that?
"It's difficult to explain, but maybe they are unsure about themselves after the last two results.
"At least we showed great character at one-nil down and 10 against 11.
"Maybe this goal, this moment will be the key for us from now until the end of the season, as we still fight to get into Europe."
The Dutchman refuted post-match suggestions that his side were 'lucky' to get a draw, insisting he didn't think Sam Allardyce's Sunderland were the better side.
Koeman added: "They didn’t press us in the last five minutes, they went back defending.
"We had some good attacking movements and the goal was a great goal, but for the first 85 minutes I didn’t see that quality from our side and that was disappointing.
“They controlled it more and more in the second half. [Jermain] Defoe came on, we know his qualities and playing with 10 v 11 made it more difficult.
“Too many players were far away from the best they can bring.
"Maybe one or two [exceptions]. Oriol Romeu was fantastic, but you need more quality to make it difficult for them because they had a very good defensive organisation."
Southampton were reduced to 10 men in the 79th minute when centre-back Jose Fonte fouled down Fabio Borini, with the Sunderland forward in on goal.
It looked a clear red but Koeman said afterwards he wasn't convinced Fonte had committed a foul.
He added: "It's a difficult one because it was really a fight for the ball.
"It was not a clear fault in my opinion but if you are the ref and you whistle for a fault it’s a red card because Jose was the last man on the pitch."