Jason Puncheon's second-half strike earned Southampton a 1-0 victory over fellow promoted side Reading at St Mary's.
His professional finish to Nathaniel Clyne's cut-back from the right wing was enough for the home side to win a game they had dominated in terms of chances at goal.
The midfielder also had a first-half header chalked off for an alleged foul on Adam Federici by Maya Yoshida, though it did not look as though any illegal contact was made by any Saints player in the build-up.
The win puts Nigel Adkins' side tentatively 15th in the table, but Brian McDermott's Royals remain second from bottom with only QPR beneath them.
The home side immediately went in search of an opener in the first top-flight meeting between the two clubs, while the Royals were happy to sit back early on.
Jay Rodriguez should have done better in just the second minute when he shot wide from close range under minimal pressure from Nicky Shorey, while Morgan Schneiderlin was unprepared for Clyne’s driven cross from the right on eight minutes and sent it wide with his chest.
Jobi McAnuff’s cross for Jay Tabb to volley narrowly over Kelvin Davis’s crossbar on 18 was the visitors’ first serious chance of the match, and 10 minutes later the central midfielder tested Davis, in goal at the expense of Paulo Gazzaniga, with a decent strike on the counter.
Lambert made Federici work with a fine curling drive before a Saints corner in the 34th minute saw Puncheon head home at the far post, only for referee Jonathan Moss to blow up seconds beforehand for an apparent foul which mystified the home players.
Yoshida, the man it appeared was punished for the disallowed goal, had a goal-bound header cleared off the line by Shaun Cummings while Hal Robson-Kanu had a headed effort of his own at the other end smack off the upright on the stroke of half-time.
Puncheon continued to be a creative driving force for the hosts after the interval, with the help of Gaston Ramirez – brought on late in the first half for an injured Adam Lallana – and forced Federici into action with a fierce low shot on 52.
After missing an opportunity to go for goal again, instead overhitting a return pass to Ramirez, Puncheon finally got on the scoresheet moments later.
Clyne’s confident run down the right led to the right-back seeing the opportunity to slip the ball inside before marker Shorey could notice, picking out Puncheon to break the deadlock – and win the match.
Reading did not create many chances to equalise, but should have done just that on 72 when Adam Le Fondre put a close range header wide despite being unmarked for McAnuff’s delivery from the wing.
And substitute Guly Do Prado was denied the chance to wrap the result up late on when his turn on Jack Cork’s short pass and subsequent shot was once again kept out by Federici.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jason Puncheon, Southampton - Scorer of the winner, involved in many of the home side's best chances and not afraid to get back and defend. An excellent all-round performance from the winger.
SOUTHAMPTON: K Davis 7, Clyne 8, Fonte 7, Yoshida 7, Shaw 7, Puncheon 9, Cork 7, Schneiderlin 7, Lallana 6, Lambert 7, Rodriguez 6. Subs: Ramírez 7, Guly 6.
READING: Federici 8, Shorey 6, Mariappa 7, Leigertwood 6, Le Fondre 4, McAnuff 7, Morrison5, Tabb 6, Robson-Kanu 6, Cummings 8, Roberts 6. Subs: Pearce 6, Hunt 4, McCleary 5.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jason Puncheon
- Adam Federici
- Nathaniel Clyne