Southampton manager George Burley praised his patched-up defence, as Stern John’s third goal in two games led them to a 1-0 victory over Cardiff.
John struck the only goal in the 15th minute with a clinical first-time shot, but Southampton had to brave a barrage of pressure to record their third win in four matches.
Saints came into the game with the worst defensive record in the Football League, and were without an entire back-line because of injury.
Burley said: “We did not play particularly well, and we never really looked comfortable.
“There were a few performances that were not great, but we defended well, and that is something we have not done all season.
“We have played a lot better and lost, but it is important to keep clean sheets.
“We are strong in all areas of the pitch, but the defence has been a real problem since the start of the season.
“I bought in Andrew Davies from Middlesbrough on loan, and he picked up a calf injury.
“Claus Lundekvam and Darren Powell have both been out for most of the season, which has been a problem.
“Christian Dailly has come from West Ham and done tremendously well, he is a great pro.”
John put Southampton in front against the run of play, picking out the bottom left corner of the Cardiff net after being played through by Inigo Idiakez.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could have had two goals in as many minutes at the end of the first half.
Wales international Joe Ledley whipped in an inviting left-wing cross in the 41st minute, but Hasselbaink headed over.
The veteran Dutchman then shot into the side-netting after combining with fellow Premier League old boy Robbie Fowler.
Kelvin Davis came to Southampton’s rescue in the 48th minute, when he palmed away Hasselbaink’s piledriver from the edge of the penalty area.
Fowler was denied a certain goal four minutes later by Jhon Viafara’s acrobatic goal-line clearance to keep out the Liverpool legend’s header.
Substitute Jason Euell should have made the game safe for Southampton a minute from time, when he was played in by Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Euell’s first-time shot was blocked by Cardiff defender Glen Loovens, but the former Middlesbrough striker would have expected to do better with the rebound, which he fired into the stands.
Cardiff had fared better on their travels than at Ninian Park this season, and could have snatched a point in the four minutes of stoppage time added by referee Alan Wiley.
First, substitute Peter Whittingham scuffed wide from just six yards out, after being played clean through by Trevor Sinclair.
On-loan Reading defender Alan Bennett then produced a stunning block to charge down Fowler’s fierce right-foot shot.
Cardiff manager Dave Jones said: “We created enough chances to win the match, and at least deserved a point.
“Southampton defended for their lives, but I always felt we had enough to get something from the game.”