For 85 minutes Southampton matched and often bettered Tottenham, but Spurs star Bale popped up yet again in the dying minutes to rifle home a superb 25-yard drive that gave the home side a crucial 1-0 win.
The strike brought his tally for the current campaign to 30 - double his previous best for a whole season - and it also means that he becomes the first Tottenham player since Jurgen Klinsmann to register 20 league goals in a season.
Earlier in the week, Southampton boss Pochettino was loathed to suggest that Spurs were overly reliant on the 23-year-old, who was named FWA Footballer of the season on Thursday, just four days after doing the double at the PFA Awards.
However, the Argentinean hinted he had re-evaluated that position after watching the Welshman snatch all three points for the north London club.
"He is not on the same level as Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi yet, but Bale is one of the top 10 players in the world today," Pochettino said.
"He could play for any side in the world, in any league in the world.
"Perhaps I made a mistake when I said Tottenham were not a one man team.
"We didn't deserve to lose but one special, amazing moment from Gareth Bale and all that hard work was undone."
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- Gareth Bale