SOUTHAMPTON withstood a late Canaries rally to win 4-2 at St Mary’s Stadium.
Strikes from Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez looked to be sending the home team on their way to a comfortable victory.
However, two City goals from Johan Elmander and Robert Snodgrass in the space of sixty seconds in the final five minutes of normal time energised Chris Hughton’s men.
They pressed for the equaliser, but were caught out at the back in the final seconds as substitute Sam Gallagher wrapped up the points for Southampton.
Results elsewhere meant the gap to the relegation places was at four places for the Canaries after the whistle with eight matches left of the Premier League season.
Hughton rung the changes before kick-off, making five alterations to his team, with the most notable incomer being midfielder Jonny Howson for his first start of the calendar year.
Southampton brought in James Ward-Prowse and Gaston Ramirez for injured pair Jack Cork and Victor Wanyama – England striker Lambert had to be content with a place on the bench.
The hosts earned a corner just two minutes in from which Ramirez headed over the bar, and their bright start resulted in the game’s opening goal after just five minutes.
A slick move culminated in Schneiderlin beating the offside trap to meet Ramirez’s through ball, and the French midfielder made no mistake, sliding the ball past the onrushing John Ruddy
Southampton continued to dominate possession and Steven Davis was the next to have a try at goal on 20 minutes, but screwed his left-footed effort well wide from inside the box.
A handball decision that wasn’t given in the Canaries favour infuriated Hughton and his players on the half hour, and Gary Hooper spurning City’s best chance up to then on 33 minutes, firing wide from Robert Snodgrass’ pass, added to their frustrations.
A foul on Martin Olsson near the corner flag offered Snodgrass the chance to deliver one of his now trademark set-pieces, and from it Anthony Pilkington hit a sweetly struck volley that charged down by the Saints defence.
City’s play towards the end of the half was more encouraging but it still failed to produce the equaliser they craved.
HALF-TIME: Southampton 1-0 Norwich City
James Ward-Browse forced Ruddy into a save with his shot from outside the box five minutes into the second period before Adam Lallana’s glancing header at the near post fell inches wide.
On 57 minutes, Southampton scored their second goal – Ryan Bennett’s missed header allowed Lambert, who had been introduced for Lallana just a minute earlier, through and he sidestepped Joseph Yobo before finishing expertly.
In response, Hughton made a triple substitution, bringing on Nathan Redmond, Elmander and Ricky van Wolfswinkel, but it was Mauricio Pochettino’s outfit who put the game beyond doubt on 72 minutes.
Lambert’s composure in the box allowed him to pick out Rodriguez, and the former Burnley man’s shot emphatically hit the net to end any Canaries hopes of a comeback.
From distance on 80 minutes, Rodriguez found the angle of post and bar before Steven Whittaker’s wayward pass across goal led to Lambert being freed in the box, but this time Ruddy was equal to it.
What appeared to be just a consolation for the Canaries came on 85 minutes as Elmander scored his first league goal for the Club, capitalising on Jose Fonte’s sloppy to pass to advance and slot the ball under Artur Boruc.
Snodgrass then pounced at the back post after more uncertainty in the Saints backline and suddenly an improbable comeback looked like it could be on the cards.
In their desperation to get a leveller, however, they conceded a fourth deep into stoppage time – Tettey’s slip allowed Ward-Prowse and Gallagher to combine, with the latter finding the net via a deflection off Ruddy.
FULL-TIME: Southampton 4-2 Norwich CityGOALS: Saints
: Morgan Schneiderlin (5), Rickie Lambert (57), Jay Rodriguez (72), Sam Gallagher (90) - Canaries
: Johan Elmander (85), Robert Snodgrass (86)
: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Lallana (c) (Lambert 56), Ramirez (Do Prado 61), Rodriguez (Gallagher 90). Subs not used
: Gazzaniga (GK), Yoshida, Chambers, Hooiveld.
: Ruddy (c); Whittaker, Yobo, R Bennett, Olsson; Tettey, Johnson (van Wolfswinkel 64), Howson; Snodgrass, Pilkington (Redmond 64), Hooper (Elmander 64). Subs not used
: Bunn (GK), Martin, Bassong, Hoolahan.
: Kevin Friend