Southampton flipped their own narrative in a dominant 4-0 win at Sunderland to ease talks of being sucked into the Premier League relegation battle.
Manolo Gabbiadini, who scored on his Saints debut, struck twice before the break after Sunderland had dominated the opening 20 minutes at the Stadium of Light before adding two second half goals with one coming via Jason Denayer’s foot.
Southampton entered having lost six of their last seven games and sat just seven points above the bottom three, but turned in a performance warranted of their EFL Cup form, which has seen them through to the final.
Sunderland, however, took a step backwards on the heels of their biggest Premier League win since 1999 and remain bottom of the table.
A confident Sunderland made a bright start with Adnan Januzaj causing trouble for the back line. Januzaj forced an early block from Ryan Bertrand before crossing from Jermain Defoe, who was unable to turn the ball goal bound.
But against the run of play, a near defensive mishap on 19 minutes allowed Gabbiadini to take aim, but his low shot was always curling wide.
It proved the turning point with Dusan Tadic playing in Gabbiadini on goal with a smart pass before his cut back, which fell to Cedric Soares, was fired over the bar.
Ryan Bertrand helped Southampton find the breakthrough on the half hour mark when his dangerous delivery found a chagrining Gabbiadini, who held off two defenders and allowed the ball to bounce off him and into the net.
With Southampton clearly in the ascendancy, Gabbiadini doubled the lead on the stroke of half time with a great between two defenders before slipping a right-footed shot underneath Vito Mannone.
Gabbiadini nearly completed his hat-trick following the restart, but Mannone was equal to his left-footed volley from the corner kick.
Tadic’s powerful shot also drew a save before Shane Long almost made an instant impact when his header required Mannone to palm the ball over the bar.
Jason Denayer compounded the result entering stoppage time as he turned in an own goal before Long added a fourth.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, Oviedo, Kone, O’Shea (c) (Pienaar 46), Denayer, N’Dong, Larsson (Borini 58), Gibson (Khazri 81), Januzaj, Defoe.
Unused subs: Mika (GK), Manquillo, Lescott, Honeyman.
Bookings: Khazri (90+4)
Southampton: Forster, Bertrand, Yoshida, Stephens, Cedric, Romeu, Davis (c), Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Hojbjerg 82), Redmond, Gabbiadini (Long 73).
Unused subs: Hassen (GK), McQueen, Gardos, Sims, Rodriguez.
Goals: Gabbiadini (30, 45), Denayer (OG 90), Long (90+2).
Referee: Paul Tierney