Jacob Ramsey fired Aston Villa to an important 1-0 win over Southampton.
The midfielder’s first goal of the season put Villa in 13th place, level on points with the visitors, and relieved manager Steven Gerrard.
The hosts built on their point against Manchester City with an expert if not fluid performance, although in reality it did little to allay long-term fears about their Premier League direction.
It was a memorable game between two sides still searching for a unified identity, and the Saints slipped to a third loss in four games to leave legitimate questions about boss Ralph Hasenhuttl’s future.
Fourth from bottom at kick-off, Villa had won just one of their last 10 league games and in truth showed little to suggest they would improve on that record for most of the first half.
It was 34 minutes before Philippe Coutinho, who had scored once and not provided an assist since March, had a rare chance as he spun away from James Ward-Prowse and over-drilled.
The lack of action underscored the gritty nature of a game where two teams worked at a pedestrian pace.
Southampton had looked better in possession early on but when John McGinn and Coutinho showed a bit of urgency the hosts fidgeted forward at the break.
Four minutes before the break, Coutinho’s header was scooped up against the far post and Villa took the lead from the resulting corner.
It was played to Coutinho to find Ollie Watkins, whose header was turned off the bar by Gavin Bazunu. Southampton failed to clear the looping ball and Ramsey struck in from five yards.
Full of energy, Villa pressed for a second, Leon Bailey’s shot deflected from wide and Douglas Luiz’s corner was converted by Bazunu.
The dramatic finale of the half did not suit the first, dreary 40 minutes and Villa had to bear in mind that all of Southampton’s previous points came from lost positions.
But the Saints never threatened, leaving Emi Martinez unmolested and Villa comfortably holding their lead.
The hosts looked unlikely to add anything, even when Ramsey saw a shot blocked, and after Stuart Armstrong looked wide in added time, the slight advantage was enough.