First competitive Saints goals for Jack Cork and Graziano Pellè sealed progression to the Capital One Cup Third Round with a 2-0 victory over Millwall at The Den.
Cork, who came on as a half-time substitute, nodded home a corner to reward Southampton for a flurry of efforts in a tie they dominated the majority of.
Pellè, a constant menace to the hosts’ defence throughout, nearly made one of his numerous attempts count when he clipped the post with a second-half header.
The striker’s tireless efforts eventually paid dividends as he side-footed a 93rd-minute shot into the near corner to cap off a pleasing night for Ronald Koeman’s men.
While it was Shane Long’s first start for the club, Matt Targett made his competitive debut just as ex-Southampton left-backs Gareth Bale and Luke Shaw did against the Lions.
Nathaniel Clyne proved to be a useful outlet for the imposing Pellè on two occasions in the first five minutes. The first of which saw the former cross for the Italian, only to produce a blocked shot before a volleyed follow-up floated wide.
The towering Pellè then rose to meet a lofted delivery but his header was glanced in the same direction as his previous effort.
James Ward-Prowse also tried his luck in the early stages, but his attempts both came from 20 yards – one a free-kick that crashed into the wall, the other a scuffed shot to ‘keeper David Forde after a clever turn away from former Saint Richard Chaplow.
Similarly to Pellè, Millwall’s Byron Webster failed to make enough contact on a header when he met a corner at the near post as he flashed the ball across the face of goal and away to safety.
Southampton’s number-19 was presented with two further opportunities around the half-hour mark but unfortunately Pellè scuffed a ricocheted cross and sent it bobbling to Forde before nodding a corner from substitute Dušan Tadić – a replacement for the injured Lloyd Isgrove – high and wide.
Despite Saints’ dominance in terms of creating chances, it was the hosts who fashioned the most inviting one through the simplest of circumstances.
A Forde goal-kick was launched long and was latched onto in behind the visitors’ rearguard by Magaye Gueye, who rushed and sliced the bouncing ball wide.
Having been the man on the end of moves throughout the opening 45 minutes, Pellè turned provider in first-half added time when excellent vision picked fellow forward Shane Long out with a scooped pass, but the Irishman was flagged offside when in on goal.
The restart in proceedings brought an eventful period in the game started by Jermaine Easter, who burst through midfield and slammed a drive narrowly wide of Fraser Forster’s post.
That proved to be Millwall’s only troubling contribution of the first quarter-hour in the second half as Saints began to pile on pressure.
Tadić unleashed a swerving drive that Forde palmed over before the winger laid the ball across to Pellè, who used his strength to hold off a challenge and strike an effort that brought the same result.
From the corner that followed, Tadić set up Cork to open the midfielder’s Southampton account as he raced towards the near post to nod into the far corner.
Pellè came agonisingly close to registering his first competitive goal for the club soon after when he calmly headed back across goal from Clyne’s cross but onto the edge of the post.
The striker continued to be a nuisance for the home side’s backline. Pellè utilised his power once more when bringing the ball down in the box before a clever backheel past Forde was prevented on its path to goal.
He then twice created space for Tadić to feed into, the first producing a curled shot just wide from the 29-year-old before another fizzed straight at Forde.
Pellè’s relentless probing eventually brought its reward in the third minute of added time as the ball was threaded through for the forward to tuck in at the near corner to confirm Saints’ participation in the next stage of the competition.
Millwall team: David Forde, Justin Hoyte, Byron Webster, Shaun Williams (c), Matthew Briggs, Richard Chaplow (Aiden O’Brien 63), Nadjim Abdou (Ben Thompson 76), Jack Powell, Magaye Gueye (Fred Onyedinma 63), John Marquis, Jermaine Easter. Unused substitutes: Denzel Gerrar (GK), Lee Gregory, Jake Goodman, Joshua Siafa.
Southampton team: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, Maya Yoshida, José Fonte (c), Matt Targett, Victor Wanyama (Jack Cork 46), Steven Davis James Ward-Prowse, Lloyd Isgrove (Dušan Tadić 28), Shane Long (Gastón Ramírez 90+1), Graziano Pellè. Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis (GK), Florin Gardos, Saphir Taïder, Jack Stephens.
Goals: Cork (53), Pellè (90+3)
Bookings: Pellè (84), Targett (89)
Attendance: 6,014 (1,011 away fans)
Referee: Dean Whitestone