Southampton's 27-year stay in the top flight of English football ended when they lost to Manchester United and were relegated from the Premiership.
Saints had started so well, a Graeme Le Saux corner bundled in via the thigh of Man Utd defender John O'Shea.
But United responded quickly and O'Shea crossed for Darren Fletcher to head in.
Ruud van Nistelrooy pounced to nod home an Alan Smith cross to put Man Utd ahead and results elsewhere ensured the Saints finished bottom of the division.
It was heartbreak for the Saints faithful who must now watch their side play in the second tier for the first time since 1978.
Saints boss Harry Redknapp picked a brave team for such a monumental game, bringing back David Prutton after a 10-match ban and replacing the banned Peter Crouch with Brett Ormerod, leaving Kevin Phillips on the bench.
And his side understandably looked nervous from the start, Wayne Rooney's shot being deflected wide before Mikael Silvestre headed over from the resulting corner.
But the hosts, veterans of the last-day survival escape, got themselves in front with their first attack of the game.
Henri Camara won a corner on the right that Le Saux swung in to the area and with Nigel Quashie lurking the ball went in inadvertently off O'Shea.
The game was being played at a ferocious tempo and Saints could have grabbed another when Silvestre somehow stopped Ormerod getting on the end of a Jamie Redknapp cross.
But United always looked dangerous and they got their equaliser when O'Shea made amends for his own goal, crossing for Fletcher to impressively head home.
As play switched from end to end Van Nistelrooy saw his shot cleared off the line before Ormerod headed over from six yards.
The pace slowed down as the half wore on but Saints fans had plenty to cheer as news filtered through that rivals Crystal Palace and Norwich were both losing.
The hosts knew that a goal in one of the other games could plunge them back into the mire, but they had enough on their hands coping with a determined Man Utd side.
But inside 60 seconds, the carnival atmosphere inside St Mary's turned into deathly silence.
Crystal Palace equalised against Charlton, West Brom went 1-0 up against Portsmouth and the Saints fell behind, a killer goal from Van Nistelrooy.
Smith bustled his way into space down the right and his deflected cross evaded Antti Niemi and fell for the Dutchman to nod home.
With West Brom winning, Southampton knew they needed to score twice to stay up and they never looked like producing the required miracle.
Southampton: Niemi, Telfer, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Bernard (Davenport 78), Prutton (Phillips 71), Redknapp, Quashie, Le Saux (Delap 71), Camara, Ormerod.
Subs Not Used: Smith, Oakley.
Goals: O'Shea 10 og.
Man Utd: Carroll, O'Shea, Brown, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Fortune, Fletcher, Giggs, Smith, Rooney (Saha 74), van Nistelrooy (Phil Neville 87).
Subs Not Used: Kleberson, Keane, Ricardo.
Booked: Brown, Silvestre.
Goals: Fletcher 19, van Nistelrooy 63.
Ref: S Bennett (Kent).