IT was a story of what could have been for Huddersfield as they slumped to a comprehensive defeat to Southampton at St Mary's.
Lee Clark's side started impressively and should have put the game beyond the Saints early on, but spurned a succession of gilt-edged chances.
Lee Novak eventually gave Huddersfield the lead on 16 minutes with a powerful header from Gary Roberts's cross, but a resurgent Southampton roared back into a 2-1 lead at the break, before adding a further two strikes in the second period to sink the Terriers.
An acrobatic header by Peter Clarke prevented Southampton from taking an early lead as Adam Lallana volleyed expertly over Alex Smithies, but the Terriers dominated after this reprieve.
Alan Lee should have opened the scoring, latching onto a pinpoint cross from Scott Arfield but nodding straight at Kelvin Davis. Then Arfield skewed the ball wide with an open goal at his mercy after Novak's cutback.
Novak's goal partially atoned for those mistakes, but the die was cast for the visitors.
Saints were level just 12 minutes later, Rickie Lambert latching onto Dan Harding's throw-in to lash home from 18 yards.
Three minutes later they were ahead, Liverpool target Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain jinking into the Huddersfield box before cooly slotting into the bottom corner.
Southampton continued to dominate into the second period and deservedly added a third in the simplest of fashions, Radhi Jaidi rising highest to head home a pinpoint free-kick from Lallana on 51 minutes. The rout was complete 20 minutes from time when on-loan Richard Chaplow fired a left-foot drive beyond Smithies.
Southampton: Davis; Harding, Fonte, Butterfield (Richardson 46), Jaidi; Schneiderlin (Chaplow 55), Guly, Hammond, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lambert. Unused substitutes: Bialkowski, Barnard, Seaborne, Connolly.
Huddersfield: Smithies; Peltier, P Clarke, T Clarke (Gudjonsson 70), Roberts, Kay, Pilkington, Arfield, Carey (Ridehalgh 31), Lee (Afobe 58), Novak. Unused substitutes: Bennett, Nathan Clarke, Rhodes, Atkinson.
Referee: JJ Linington (Isle of Wight).