CHERRIES’ past and present headed to the cinema this week for the launch of the club’s Minus 17 documentary.

Whether that production inspired them or not, only they would be able to tell you – but it certainly did not hinder the club putting on a box office show for fans at St Mary’s on Saturday.

If this game had been turned into a movie production, scriptwriters would have been working overtime. 

By no means a defensive masterclass from either side, the showcase of Cherries and Saints produced high-octane drama, as the rivalry between the clubs continued to build at England’s elite level.

Eddie Howe’s men looked to have suffered from opening night teething problems during the first 19 minutes in Hampshire, with Shane Long taking directions to draw first blood. 

But Cherries soon picked up their lines and started to express themselves by miraculously going into a 2-1 half-time advantage through Dan Gosling and Callum Wilson.

Homegrown talents James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett then took centre stage with goals to put Saints 3-2 in front – the latter’s looked to have produced a fairytale ending for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men in beating the drop. 

However, many glittering productions have a late plot twist and Wilson was exactly the hero Cherries needed.

His goal four minutes from time capped a dazzling star performance from the former Coventry frontman - England boss Gareth Southgate was also a keen member of the audience. 

Saints began the brighter of the two sides and had Cherries in trouble inside the opening three minutes.

After Nathan Redmond’s strike was thwarted by a sliding block from Chris Mepham, the resulting corner from Ryan Bertrand drifted on the wind and was allowed to bounce in the box.

It eventually fell to Jan Bednarek, whose effort was cleared over the bar by Jefferson Lerma.

The hosts continued to threaten. Danny Ings’s perfectly-weighted through ball found Redmond, who was denied by former Saints stopper Artur Boruc.

But Boruc was powerless to prevent the hosts opening the scoring on 12 minutes.

After Redmond had burst in behind Cherries’ backline, he squared for Republic of Ireland International Long, who sent a cool side-foot finish into the corner of the net via a deflection.

Hasenhuttl’s side were rampant throughout the opening exchanges, but, with their first attack on goal, Cherries were level.

A blistering counter, starting inside Cherries’ box, saw Joshua King burst forward from inside his own half. He found Wilson to slide in Gosling – and the midfielder fired home his second goal of the season.

Despite the leveller, Cherries made an early change in a bid to stop the hosts’ dominance. Mepham was replaced by Fraser, as the visitors reverted to a back four.

But Southampton should have regained the lead just a minute later. After a mistake from Simpson, frontman Long ran in on goal and saw his initial effort saved by Boruc before firing the rebound against the post.

Cherries made the hosts pay and remarkably found themselves ahead on 32 minutes.

After a short corner routine between Fraser and David Brooks, the latter’s shot was spilled by Angus Gunn in the home goal.

Having let the initial effort go through his legs, Wilson was first to react and tapped home.

Howe’s men were hit by another injury blow six minutes into the second half when goalscorer Gosling hobbled off with a calf problem.

In what was turning into be a pulsating encounter. Saints then drew level 10 minutes into the second half.

Despite Brooks thinking he had been fouled in the build-up, Ward-Prowse sent a low drive through the legs of Simpson past Boruc to make it 2-2.

And it was substitute Targett, on to replace Oriol Romeu at half-time, who added the third for the hosts six minutes past the hour mark. He rose to nod Jan Valery’s cross back where it came from at the far post and into the net.

With the last throw of the dice, Howe opted to bring on Dominic Solanke in place of Nathaniel Clyne for the final 18 minutes.

And with four minutes remaining, Cherries found their leveller. Fraser surged forward to find Wilson, who slid in to guide the ball into the corner of the net for 3-3.

Striker Wilson could have won it late on when racing in on goal but he was denied his hat-trick by keeper Gunn.

Cherries: Boruc; Clyne (Solanke, 72), Mepham (Fraser, 23), Simpson, Cook, Ake; Lerma, Gosling (Hyndman, 53); Brooks; King, Wilson.

Unused subs: Mousset, Ibe, Surridge, Begovic (g/k).

Booked: Gosling.

Saints: Gunn; Valery, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu (Targett, h-t), Hojbjerg, Redmond; Ings (Armstrong, 81), Long (Austin, 88).

Unused subs: Lemina, Sims, Ramsay, Forster (g/k).

Booked: Long.

Referee: Graham Scott.