It should be pointed out that Southampton have something like a dozen players unavailable through injury and Matt Le Tissier suspended for this game, but no team ever escaped relegation through mitigating circumstances.
David Jones is still struggling manfully, having been dealt some lousy hands recently. He brought in two new faces on Saturday but long-term injuries to important acquisitions like David Hirst and John Beresford are difficult for a small club to overcome, and Jones' frustration boiled over into saying some things about the referee, Stephen Lodge, that he might subsequently regret.
There were a couple of penalty appeals that might have gone their way on another day, but, unlike impartial spectators, supposedly impartial referees rarely err on the side of the underdog even if they are playing at home.
There was also an element of luck involved in Derby's winner, scored by their record signing at pounds 2.7m Horatio Carbonari, an Argentinian defender of Italian descent, whose appearances have been limited by injury.
Paulo Wanchope, meanwhile, must be becoming a cause for some concern on Jim Smith's part. The languid style that has confounded his critics and delighted the Derby fans over the past couple of seasons is beginning to look a trifle laboured at the moment and, if he continues to miss chances like the one on Saturday, when he seemed to want everyone to stop while he took his time in front of an open goal, then Smith might have to seriously consider an alternative focal point to his attack.
As for Southampton, they can certainly take some heart from the midfield performance of Hassan Kachloul, the first Moroccan international to grace the Premiership, and the 19-year-old defender Garry Monk, whose accomplished display helped to compensate for the absence of three other first-choice defenders. But it looks a long, hard road for them now.
Goal: Carbonari (34) 0-1.
Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Monk, Dodd, Benali; Ripley (Bridge, 37), Palmer, Oakley, Kachloul (Basham, 80); Hughes, Beattie. Substitutes not used: Gibbens, Warner, Moss (gk).
Derby County (5-3-2): Poom; Delap, Prior, Carbonari, Laursen, Dorigo; Carsley, Bohinen (Harper, 68), Powell; Wanchope, Sturridge (Burton, 85). Substitutes not used: Schnoor, Eranio, Hoult (gk).
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).
Bookings: Southampton: Beattie, Oakley, Palmer. Derby: Bohinen, Carbonari, Laursen.
Man of the match: Kachloul.