ANOTHER away day and another defeat for Hull City. A second half penalty by James Ward-Prowse and a late strike from Graziano Pelle ensured the Tigers slipped to a second reverse on the road in as many weekends.
City played well, creating several chances and asking plenty of Southampton.
What Steve Bruce’s men didn’t possess, however, was the killer instinct required to capitalise when on top.
A heavy home defeat for Sunderland did at least lessen some of the damage caused by defeat on the south coast but unexpected victories for Aston Villa and Leicester City mean the Yorkshire club is deep in trouble.
Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United all come to the KC Stadium before the season is out, while trips to fellow strugglers Burnley and revitalised Crystal Palace await.
Steve Bruce said: “Listen, Sunderland today would be thinking they’ve got chance against Crystal Palace at home and get beat by four.
“We’ve got four games out of six at home and we have to win a couple of them, in my opinion, and might have to do a bit more than that.
“We’ve certainly got an opportunity no matter who we play against as we’re at home.
“Going to Southampton, Swansea, Leicester, they’re all not easy. That’s why we’re in the position we are in.
“We are finding it difficult but I’m still convinced we can beat three others. It’ll be difficult but I still remain positive we can do it.”
A big feature of Hull’s recent games on the road has been their tendency to inflict most of the damage on themselves.
Just 21 seconds into the game, the visitors were at it again as a dreadful back pass by Jake Livermore played former team-mate Shane Long clear.
However, in attempting to dribble round Steve Harper, the Republic of Ireland striker ran the ball dead to hand City a big let-off.
The Tigers’ response was to make their most positive start to an away game in some time.
First, Sone Aluko dragged a long shot wide after being fed by Stephen Quinn. Then, the Nigerian international - after being found by Livermore - brought a fine save from Kelvin Davis with a low drive.
Dame N’Doye also had a sight of goal on ten minutes but blazed wide before Southampton responded with a neat move that saw Graziano Pelle bring a block from Harper, who in taking the place of Allan McGregor had become the oldest Tigers players of all-time.
Just before the break, Aluko was hauled back by Victor Wanyama but N’Doye’s resulting free-kick was awful and flew way wide.
Hull also had the first big chance of the second half, when Aluko laid the ball off to Livermore and he fired a shot that Kelvin Davis did brilliantly to keep out.
It was Saints, however, who made the breakthrough on 56 minutes courtesy of a penalty by James Ward-Prowse.
A reckless challenge by Alex Bruce on Long had brought the spot-kick, as yet again Steve Bruce’s men proved to be the architects of their own downfall.
James Chester was denied on the hour by a goal-line clearance from Ryan Bertrand before N’Doye was just unable to reach a Paul McShane cross.
As much as Hull pressed, however, Southampton always looked the more likely winner and Graziano Pelle made certain of all three points by tapping in nine minutes from time.