Chris Lucketti took one of the hardest decision of his life on Friday and it may have resurrected his professional career after he helped Southampton rediscover some dignity the following day.
Lucketti had not played since mid-December and yet showed no signs of rust as his well-oiled defensive qualities shone through and Bristol City, the league leaders, were comprehensively beaten at St Mary's.
The fact that the Saints only scored twice was down to some heroic goalkeeping from City's Brazilian stopper, Adriano Basso, but Lucketti, on loan from Sheffield United, did his level best to make sure the home side kept a rare clean sheet in a near-disastrous season that has yielded 67 goals so far.
Stern John relieved some of the tension with his 17th strike of the season, on 35 minutes, before Jason Euell wrapped up the Saints' second league win in 14 attempts, moving the club three points clear of the drop zone.
Lucketti, who only knew he was going to the south coast on Friday, was delighted just to be back in a first-team shirt and talked about the personal sacrifice he had to make to even make the trip.
He said: "I have three kids and my wife has had an operation on her hip so I couldn't commit to seven days a week. The club are flying me down on Thursdays.
"It was quite a serious operation. She will be on crutches for between 10 and 12 weeks so she is struggling to get around. It was a major decision for me to leave her but to be fair she knew how much I wanted to play football and how disappointing it was for me not to play much this season, so she was pushing me as well.
"It is looking less and less likely that I have a future at Sheffield so another of the reasons I came down was to show people there that I can still play."
The City players will have to convince Gary Johnson, the manager, they have the nerve and dedication to keep themselves in the two promotion places, because on this dreadful showing even the manager is doubting their ability to do so.
He said: "Bloody hell, we would be lucky to get two draws from our last four games playing like that. We never looked like we were going to win and that's really disappointing. That's why there has got to be a massive turnaround – and we will turn it around.
"A performance like that makes you not want to get too far ahead of yourself and think about the Premiership but only to concentrate on the next game, which is Wolves. If we beat them all of you will say next Saturday: 'How the hell did they do that?' "
Goals: John (35) 1-0; Euell (84) 2-0.
Southampton (4-4-2): R Wright; J Wright, Lucketti, Perry, Vignal (Surman, 42); Licka, Idiakez (Viafara, 70), Safri, Euell; John (Pericard, 70), Wright-Phillips. Substitutes not used: Davis (gk), Saganowski.
Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Basso; Orr, Carey, McCombe, McAllister; Murray (Brooker, 45), Skuse (Elliott, 78), Johnson, McIndoe; Noble (Sproule, 45); Adebola. Substitutes not used: Weale (gk), Carle.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).
Booked: Southampton Vignal, Safri; Bristol City Carey, Adebola.
Man of the match: Lucketti.
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