A Juan Cala strike against the run of play was enough to snatch a precious 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory for Cardiff City at Southampton.
The home side dominated possession throughout Saturday's contest at St Mary's Stadium and could have gone in at half-time with the lead after Gaston Ramirez hit the crossbar. Paulo Gazzaniga in the Southampton goal was rarely called into action, until he was beaten 20 minutes into the second half as Cala found the net from 20 yards.
Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall made a pair of important saves late on to safeguard the visitors' lead. With Fulham picking up a 1-0 victory against Norwich City, and bottom-placed Sunderland losing by the same scoreline to Everton, the result, which was Cardiff's second away league win of the season, lifts Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to within three points of safety and opens up the battle for survival.
Southampton brought in Gaston Ramirez in for the injured Jay Rodriguez while Cardiff made four changes, with Peter Whittingham, Kim Bo-Kyung, Cala and Fabio Da Silva coming in.
It was not long before the home team were threatening the Cardiff goal. Steven Davis dragged an effort across the face of goal after 14 minutes, before Adam Lallana's low drive was comfortably collected by Marshall. Ramirez then had the visitors' crossbar rattling with a deflected effort from inside the penalty area.
Cardiff were struggling for a foothold in the game. Rickie Lambert forced Marshall into a diving save from a 20-yard free-kick after 27 minutes, and the hosts had calls for a penalty turned down before the break, referee Jon Moss waving away claims of handball against Steven Caulker.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first, with Southampton dominating possession, but Gazzaniga was forced into action just before the hour as he punched clear a Jordon Mutch effort from distance. Then Cardiff took the lead in the 65th minute, Cala firing home a left-footed strike from 20 yards after Southampton had failed to clear their lines from a free-kick.
Marshall denied substitute Sam Gallagher and Nathaniel Clyne superbly in the closing stages as Cardiff clung on for a vital three points and gave Mauricio Pochettino a day to forget in his 50th Barclays Premier League match in charge of Southampton.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "We are disappointed. If you analyse the game we didn't deserve to lose but it is a learning curve.
"In football it's not just enough to play well. You have to be more clinical and aggressive and that is what we lacked.
"We were dominating the game but in final third we were lacking the attacking edge we needed and their keeper was also making some outstanding saves."
Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "Sometimes when things happen in football it galvanises everyone. The team spirit has been fantastic. We were really hurt by performance last week against Crystal Palace.
"We've come here and held our own and towards the end we could have had a couple more goals. We had a gameplan and stuck to it as they (the players) normally do. Some players put in fantastic performances.
"I was proud of the effort everyone put in. Today, no matter what would have happened in the last five minutes I would have been proud. Another few clean sheets and we are right in it. We won't give in until it is over. We don't expect to win all of our games but we can win a few of them."
|19 Apr 2014||v Aston Villa (A)|
|03 May 2014||v Swansea (A)|
|11 May 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Everton (H)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Southampton (H)|