Solid Saints edged past Stoke with a win secured by Sadio Mané’s first officially credited goal for the club.
Mané, who saw an effort against in the win over Sunderland later rescinded, made no doubt about getting off the mark for the season with a stunning first-half strike which secured Southampton’s fourth consecutive win on home soil.
The Senegalese rattled home a strike off the underside of the crossbar on 33 minutes with an effort that won’t be taken away from him, and nor could you take anything away from Saints, who struck the woodwork three times before sealing the success which moved them up to second in the Premier League table.
It was their first success over Stoke since returning to the Premier League, as Ronald Koeman’s men remain unbeaten at St Mary’s, to extend Stoke’s winless run in Southampton which stands at 34 years, with attention now turning swiftly to a League Cup meeting between the two on Wednesday night.
Only long-term absentees, Sam Gallagher, Jay Rodriguez and James Ward-Prowse were unavailable to Koeman ahead of the game, with the Saints manager making just one change to the team that started the win over Sunderland, as Sadio Mané came in for Shane Long in attack.
Visitors Stoke named former Saints man Peter Crouch as a lone striker, with Victor Moses and Jonathan Walters supplying ammunition from the flanks. Stephen Ireland and Glenn Whelan were missing for the Potters, who welcomed Geoff Cameron back into the starting eleven.
Stoke got the game under way, but Saints settled into an early rhythm by making a bright start to the game, with two corners inside the opening couple of minutes.
A warning sign came when Graziano Pellè was inches away from connecting to Sadio Mané’s low cross into the area, which the Italian stretched for, but couldn’t quite get a touch on.
That combination almost drew a shot on target when Pellè flashed a low shot wide from six yards out, but the game opened out again, with Stoke seeing Crouch head over from inside the area, before Victor Moses almost weaved his way through on goal before Saints eventually cleared their lines.
Koeman’s men turned the screw with a prolonged spell of possession, with Tadić in particular causing the Potters problems. The Serbian tested Begovic with a low strike and then played a pivotal role in Saints’ next chance which resulted in Morgan Schneiderlin hitting the crossbar from a well-worked corner.
The hosts got their reward however, just past the half hour when they took the lead in style. A short free-kick taken by Tadić, found Pellè, whose low shot came back off the post, but Mané smashed the ball home in off the underside of the bar for 1-0, a lead which Saints held until the half-time break.
Four minutes after the re-start, Saints struck the woodwork for the third time in the game when Pellè rose to meet Tadić’s left-wing cross, and the striker’s towering header clipped the underside of the bar before dropping out of play via a loose touch from Steven Davis.
Stoke change their approach eight minutes into the half by introducing striker Mame Biram Diouf in place of Charlie Adam, with the Senegalese joining Crouch in attack.
Saints weathered the storm from the fresh impetus of the Potters, and introduced Victor Wanyama just past the hour mark to further quell the threat of Diouf and Crouch.
The hosts continued to have the better of the chances too, with Pellè smashing a fierce volley over the top, before Tadić screwed a shot just wide of the near post after a cutback from Bertrand arrived at his feet via Pellè.
Saints’ top scorer had a good chance on 76 minutes when he headed a corner from Tadić wide, with a second killer goal still eluding Koeman’s team as they sought a more comfortable last quarter of an hour.
At the other end, Arnautovic’s deep cross was just missed by Diouf who dived into the six yard box to try and divert the ball goalwards, with the Potters making another attacking change by introducing Arnautovic to try and force a leveller in the closing stages.
Saints held their nerve to see out their win, with Florin Gardos shoring up the backline late on as the hosts played out the four minutes of additional time with a firm hold of possession.
Southampton team: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, José Fonte (c), Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork (Victor Wanyama 62), Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis (Florin Gardos 89), Dušan Tadić, Sadio Mané, Graziano Pellè
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Maya Yoshida, Shane Long, Emmanuel Mayuka, Harrison Reed
Goal: Mané (33)
Stoke City team: Asmir Begovic, Phil Bardsley, Erik Pieters, Marc Wilson, Ryan Shawcross (c), Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam (Mame Biram Diouf 53), Steven N’Zonzi, Victor Moses (Oussama Assaidi 79), Jonathan Walters (Marko Arnautovic 68), Peter Crouch
Unused substitutes: Thomas Sorensen, Robert Huth, Steve Sidwell, Bojan Krkic
Booked: Shawcross (39), Wilson (81)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Attendance: 30,017 (including 1,272 away)