Che Adams and Carlos Alcaraz netted as Southampton continued their assault on the Sky Bet Championship automatic places by beating Plymouth 2-1 at St Mary’s.

Alcaraz’s and Adams’ second-half strikes were also given an official seal of approval as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – a Southampton fan – celebrated them from the stands.

Ryan Hardie pulled one back in stoppage time but Saints are now on a 17-league match unbeaten run – two off their 102-year club record – and have scored 12 goals in their last four fixtures to turn up the pressure on Ipswich and Leicester.

The first half was summed up by Southampton having 81 per cent of possession but not legally finding the back of the net.

Striker Adams did roll the ball past Conor Hazard and into the goal in the fifth minute only to see the offside flag raised.

And then Adam Armstrong had the net rippling as he took aim from inside the centre circle but the ball landed on the roof of the goal with a scrambling Hazard beaten.

Saints continued to push. Kyle Walker-Peters twisted and turned in the box but his shot was weak, Alcaraz swivelled on the edge of the area but struck wide and Ryan Manning dragged wide.

They even hit a post as Manchester City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis glanced a header from a corner onto the upright.

Argyle had little attacking threat, but Morgan Whittaker was chased down by Samuel Edozie when clean through and their only shot of note saw Ben Waine slice high over the goal.

The visitors thought they had scored 10 minutes into the second period but Bali Mumba was offside before nodding in – moments later Alcaraz had opened the scoring for real and they stared down the barrel of continuing their 100 per cent winless away record.

The Argentinian had already gone close twice since the restart before receiving the ball from Edozie just outside the area before curling sumptuously into the top corner for his fourth goal of the season.

The goal opened the visitors up and after Will Smallbone had glanced a header wide, Adams made it two with some fine strength.

Harwood-Bellis spotted his run and unleashed him with a perfectly clipped ball down the middle, which allowed Adams to hold off his defender and finish past Hazard.

Joe Aribo crashed just wide, Adam Armstrong forced a save out of Hazard while Sekou Mara and Jack Stephens were both blocked on the line.

The Pilgrims did score the first away goal at St Mary’s since November 11 when keeper Gavin Bazunu had the ball pinched off him on his own goalline by Hardie – who tapped in.

Ryan Fraser squandered a one-on-one and Whittaker curled over in a breathless finale but Saints made it seven home victories on the spin.