TOKELO Rantie was the toast of Dean Court after bagging his first goal in front of home supporters to settle in Cherries’ favour a tight encounter with Championship rivals Huddersfield.
Rantie, the club’s record signing, came off the bench to net the winner as Eddie Howe’s men recorded a deserved victory – their second home win in eight attempts.
The South Africa international latched on to Eunan O’Kane’s incisive pass before firing past Huddersfield’s inspired goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
But for Smithies, Cherries could have been out of sight by half-time, the stopper pulling off three superb saves to keep the score at 0-0.
In a contest played in atrocious conditions, Lewis Grabban’s 55th-minute penalty had given Cherries the lead, only for Calum Woods to level with a finely-taken strike just four minutes later.
However, Rantie, on as a 69th-minute replacement for Andrew Surman, restored Cherries’ lead just three minutes after coming off the bench with a fine finish.
Manager Howe kept faith with the team which had performed so admirably against Liverpool in Saturday’s FA Cup clash with the only change coming on the bench.
Ryan Fraser, ruled out due to a minor hamstring problem, was replaced by Josh McQuoid, while Marc Pugh made his 150th league appearance for Cherries.
The Terriers were without Adam Hammill and James Vaughan, two of the chief protagonists when Cherries suffered a 5-1 defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium in August.
Striker Vaughan, who had bagged a hat-trick, and roving right-back Hammill, who had opened the scoring, were both sidelined by knee injuries.
Huddersfield’s new signing Nahki Wells tried his luck with a left-foot strike inside the opening two minutes, his effort pouched by Cherries goalkeeper Lee Camp low at his near post.
Cherries had an early penalty appeal waved away by referee Graham Horwood after Grabban had gone to ground under a clumsy challenge by Anthony Gerrard.
From the resultant corner, whipped in by Matt Ritchie, Cherries were thwarted by a top-drawer double save from Terriers keeper and captain Smithies.
The former England under-21 stopper parried from Elliott Ward after the defender had let fly through a crowd of players before Smithies then reacted quickly to beat away Harry Arter’s follow up.
Huddersfield fashioned a presentable chance following a move down the right with Woods glancing a cross from Danny Ward past Camp’s right-hand post.
Cherries were forced into an early reshuffle when Charlie Daniels limped off after just 14 minutes.
He was replaced by Ian Harte, who made his first appearance for more than three months.
Smithies again distinguished himself when he made another stunning stop after 19 minutes, diving full length to push Ritchie’s thunderous drive around the post with his outstretched left hand.
Although Cherries enjoyed a sustained spell of possession, Camp had to be on his toes to keep out Paul Dixon’s pot-shot midway through the first half.
Ollie Norwood wasted a free kick from a good position when he lifted his effort from 20 yards over the crossbar before Smithies scooped away a low drive from Simon Francis.
Pugh went close to breaking the deadlock following an extended half-time interval, the winger’s shot from a tight angle flashing narrowly past the upright just seconds into the second period.
Grabban, who had seen his previous penalty saved, made no mistake from the spot after Tom Smith had been judged by referee Horwood to have felled Pugh.
And Smithies was finally beaten, with Grabban sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and firing into the bottom corner to register his 12th goal of the season.
However, Cherries’ joy was short-lived as the Terriers restored parity just four minutes later through Woods, who netted a memorable maiden goal for the west Yorkshire club on his 72nd appearance.
Woods finished with aplomb when he rifled an unstoppable left-foot strike past Camp after creating the opening following a neat one-two with Wells.
Rantie, on as a 69th-minute substitute for Surman, struck just three minutes after coming off the bench, the South Africa international notching his first goal at Dean Court since his big-money move in August.
The 23-year-old, whose first goal for the club came in a 1-1 draw at Burnley, timed his run to perfection and fastened on to a slide-rule pass from O’Kane before squeezing his shot into the back of the net off the post.
Camp guided a Wells effort past the post before clutching at his near post a ferocious strike from the same player seven minutes from time, while Danny Ward skied a great chance in stoppage time.
Rantie should have added Cherries’ third and his second with virtually the last kick of the game, only for Smithies to deny him by diving at his feet after the striker had raced clear.
Cherries: Camp, Francis, E Ward, Elphick, Daniels (Harte, 14), O’Kane, Ritchie (MacDonald, 88), Arter, Surman (Rantie, 69), Pugh, Grabban.
Unused subs: Cook, McQuoid, Pitman, Allsop (g/k).
Terriers: Smithies, Smith, Gerrard, Wallace, Woods (Stead, 79), Gobern (Southern, 61), Norwood (Scannell, 77), Clayton, Dixon, D Ward, Wells.
Unused subs: Lolley, Holmes, Clarke, Bennett (g/k).
Booked: Smith, Southern, Norwood.
Referee: Graham Horwood (Bedfordshire).
Attendance: 7,258 (including 356 away supporters).