Cardiff defender Juan Cala’s second half goal saw the Bluebirds steal all three points away from St Mary’s.
In what had been a comfortable game for Saints, the hosts were made to pay for their profligacy infront of goal, as the relegation battlers from south Wales fought tooth and nail to hold onto a priceless 65th minute goal in this game.
Despite the match being goalless at half-time. Southampton were in control for much of the contest and created ample chances to score, with Lambert’s high shot at the far post the best of numerous saves produced by David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
Saints pushed sought to reaffirm their command in the second half but were caught cold midway through by Cala’s well-hit strike from the edge of the area.
It helped the Bluebirds to a vital victory in their fight against relegation, as the Welshmen celebrated their first win in Southampton in 52 years.
In the absence of Jay Rodriguez from the side, Mauricio Pochettino welcomed Gaston Ramirez back into the starting eleven for the only change to the team that started against Manchester City last time out.
Both Artur Boruc and Kelvin Davis remained sidelined through injury, so Paulo Gazzaniga started between the sticks with youngster Cody Cropper on the bench again, whilst Victor Wanyama was also among the substitutes.
After a minute’s silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago, Saints got the game underway with Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert taking the game’s initial touches on a glorious sunny afternoon at St Mary’s.
The hosts attacked the Chapel stand in the first half, with opponents Cardiff lining up in their changed strip of all blue, led by Fraizer Campbell as the visitors’ lone striker.
There was some early encouragement from Saints as they moved forward with purpose and energy. Luke Shaw delivered an early cross in from the byline which was just taken off Lallana’s toes, whilst Schneiderlin almost the rescued the move before he was crowded out by the swarm of Cardiff defenders desperately battling to keep a clean sheet in their fight against the drop.
Cardiff showed signs of life at the other end in the eight minute when a free-kick floated in by Peter Whittingham, fell to Jordon Mutch, who had his shot blocked, but the rebound almost fell invitingly to Campbell inside the area, before Jose Fonte put the ball out of danger.
Whittingham’s deliveries into the final third were proving to be a key outlet for the visitors, but Fonte and Lovren dealt with the threat posed by the boot of the Bluebirds midfielder from both central and wide positions.
Saints were soon back in control however, and held onto possession by stretching the play across midfield, with Jack Cork instrumental to that through the centre.
On 13 minutes Lambert cleverly dinked the ball into the path of Lallana, but Cala made a last ditch block on the Saints skipper to prevent him as he went to pull the trigger.
Another neat link up this time saw Lallana turn provider for Steven Davis, and the midfielder sliced a shot across goal which deflected off Fabio and rolled along the six yard box, then out for a goal kick.
Cardiff were awarded a free-kick in a useful looking position when Campbell went down under the challenge from Lovren on the corner of the penalty area. Whittingham’s direct hit from the right was punched clear by Paulo Gazzaniga, enabling Saints to breakaway on the counter, which stretched the Bluebirds midfield once more.
Lallana tested David Marshall from range with a drilled shot which went straight down the barrel of the goalkeeper, who gratefully collected the ball as the chances continued to come for the hosts.
On 20 Steven Davis set Ramirez away down the left flank and the midfielder delivered an inviting cross to the far post where Lambert headed over , as Marshall’s goal remained unscathed.
The breakthrough goal almost arrived a minute later though when Lallana played Ramirez into the area on the left, and the Uruguayan’s shot across goal took a big deflection which pushed the ball onto the crossbar before bouncing away, much to the relief of the visitors, who were becoming increasingly ragged at the back.
Cardiff put together a half chance in the 25th minute when Mats Moller Daehli crossed into the area and Mutch’s header on was met by a late dive from Campbell to try and divert the ball goalwards, but he couldn’t direct the ball on target.
Saints drew another good opportunity for themselves when Lallana was taken to ground by Cala on the edge of the area at the other end which gave Rickie Lambert a chance to test Marshall, something he duly did, with the keeper making a fine low save.
From the follow up, Lallana teed up Shaw for a crossing opportunity, but Marshall was again alert to it to cut out the danger.
Just past the half hour mark Ramirez played a neat ball into Lallana, whose clever readjustment to square the ball into Lambert’s path nearly reaped dividends when the striker got a high shot in at the near post, forcing Marshall to put it behind for a corner.
The set pieces continued to rack up for the hosts, but they were still unable to take full advantage of them, though the recovery of possession remained impressive from the home side as Cardiff struggled to get out of their own half for long periods.
Saints thought they had a shout for a penalty when a cross from Shaw appeared to strike Steven Caulker on the arm, but referee Jon Moss saw nothing in it. In the aftermath, Ramirez had a long range shot gathered by Marshall.
The visitors summoned up enough energy to win the first of three corners in succession, much to the delight of the travelling support in front of them. All three of the deliveries were punched clear by Gazzaniga, with the latter going onto tee up the next attack for Saints which ended with Cork floating a shot high and wide of the target.
Inside the last five minutes of the half, Steven Davis led the charge for the hosts as they applied further pressure onto the Bluebirds, but he defence again just about held firm, leaving the game scoreless going into the break.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 0-0 CARDIFF CITY
There were no changes to either side at the interval as play got underway again with Saints attacking the Northam stand for the second 45.
The hosts maintained their pressing game at the start of the new half, whilst crucially retaining possession against a resilient Cardiff team.
After more endeavour from Davis and Lambert from wide areas, Luke Shaw tried his luck from the left of the area, but the first shot of the half from the full back brushed into the side-netting.
The ball remained in Cardiff’s half during the early onslaught against the Bluebirds as Saints poured forward at every opportunity.
The hosts kept it tight at the other end too, and were alert to the visitors’ first attack of the half Cork put an impeccable challenge in on Mutch to thwart the Bluebirds from a swift break away.
On the hour mark, Mutch broke free of Fonte to strike an effort ton goal which Gazzaniga blocked well, with Saints immediately going up the other end where a Chambers cross was headed over by Lambert from six yards out.
Cardiff then made their first move from the bench as they introduced Manchester United loanee Wilfried Zaha to the action with the winger replacing Gary Medel to freshen up their attacking options.
Within a matter of minutes and against the run of play, Cardiff took the lead as they made the most of a set piece opportunity.
A delivery into the box from Whittingham was headed across the area and then back into the path of CALA who controlled the ball before striking a delicious curling shot into the far corner of Gazzaniga’s goal for 1-0 on 65 minutes. The Saints keeper could do little about the shot, which came as a real bolt from the blue.
Saints immediately brought on Sam Gallagher in place of Ramirez, whilst Nathaniel Clyne entered the action for Chambers a minute later as
Mauricio Pochettino sought to quickly redress the situation that his team found themselves in.
On 73 Cork picked out Lambert with a lofted pass which the striker cushioned down for Lallana, but the skipper’s effort flew wide, as the hosts tried to get hold of the game again.
They survived a quick break led by substitute Zaha who saw off Schneiderlin to tee up Campbell, but the Cardiff frontman couldn’t find the target.
Saints pushed on again with Gallagher the latest player to go close for the hosts. The youngster narrowly missed a header on the end of Lambert’s cross, but then forced a fine save from point blank range by Marshall after latching onto Schneiderlin’s ball over the top to strike at goal.
Fabio was replaced by Kevin McNaughton, whilst Saints switched Jack Cork for Guly do Prado in Pochettino’s final substitution to help force the issue.
Into the final ten minutes, and Saints remained unrelenting in their attacking play. Clyne burst forward to produce a fine low save from Marshall, with Fonte joining the attacks too.
Guly’s header was gathered by Marshall as the Brazilian injected a new dimension to Saints’ final few moves of the game. He almost picked out Gallagher’s run a minute later, until the ball was cleared.
Cardiff’s final change saw Moller Daehli replaced by Craig Bellamy, a switch which was made prior to another corner for the hosts, and this time the ball rolled off Lambert and out into touch as you began to sense that it wouldn’t be Saints’ day.
It certainly would have been all over if Zaha had converted a late chance for the visitors as he wrestled free of first Fonte, and then Lovren to go one-on-one with Gazzaniga, but the keeper made a fine low block to deny the winger a late goal.
Cardiff then as expected, played for time as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, with a further four added on for stoppages.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 0-1 CARDIFF CITY
Southampton team: Paulo Gazzaniga, Calum Chambers (Nathaniel Clyne 67), Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork (Guly do Prado 78), Steven Davis, Gaston Ramirez (Sam Gallagher 66), Adam Lallana (c), Rickie Lambert
Unused substitutes: Cody Cropper, Victor Wanyama, James Ward-Prowse, Jos Hooiveld
Cardiff City team: David Marshall, Fabio (Kevin McNaughton 78), Steven Caulker (c), Cala, Kevin Theophile-Catherine, Kim Bo-Kyung, Gary Medel (Wilfried Zaha 61), Jordon Mutch, Peter Whittingham, Mats Moller Daehli (Craig Bellamy 87), Fraizer Campbell
Unused substitutes: Joe Lewis, Ben Turner, Magnus Eikrem, Aron Gunnarsson
Goal: Cala, 65
Referee: Jon Moss
Attendance: 30,526 (including 2,404 away)