SAINTS took a step towards Championship safety with a brilliant 2-0 win over league leaders Bristol City at St Mary's.

Nigel Pearson's team showed commitment, desire and no lack of skill to deservedly dispatch City and ease their relegation worries a little.

It was like a different Saints team to recent weeks and with results elsewhere going Saints' way the three points looked even more massive.

Saints made a flying start and had a chance to make something happen inside the first minute when they won a free kick 25 yards out on the left side of the area. Inigo Idiakez whipped it over the wall but it was straight at Bristol City keeper Adriano Basso.

They created an even better chance just a minute later when Mario Licka whipped in a cross from the right to Bradley Wright-Phillips who got ahead of his man at the near post but headed wide from six yards out.

Idiakez had another free kick on four minutes from a similar position but a bit nearer centre and this time Basso had to dive away to his right to stop it.

Saints just couldn't find that opening goal and it got even worse on 11 minutes when Stern John missed a terrific opening.

Gregory Vignal arrowed in a cross from the left that dropped to John who took the ball down on his chest but from eight yards out in the centre of goal he failed to hit the target.

Saints continued their forward momentum against a Bristol City that looked shell-shocked and created another great opening on 20 minutes.

This time it was Jermaine Wright getting forward from right back that put in a cross that picked out the head of Idiakez but from eight yards out he steered it wide.

Just before the half hour mark Pearson made a tactical change moving Jason Euell to the right and Mario Licka to the right.

City managed a first real effort on goal on 32 minutes when the ball was laid into the path of Michael McIndoe 20 yards out but he cut his effort over the bar.

Finally though Saints did get the goal their dominance had deserved on 35 minutes.

Euell battled hard for a high ball in the area and managed to head it up towards the far post where John stormed in to volley into the near top corner from close range for 1-0.

City got an effort on target three minutes later but Scott Murray's downwards header was straight at Richard Wright.

There was controversy on 39 minutes when Saints thought they had doubled their lead.

Wright-Phillips' totally miscued overhead kick went away from goal and fell to John who sidefooted home but as everybody celebrated the referee spotted the linesman's flag up for offside and disallowed it.

Saints were dealt a blow on 42 minutes when Vignal, who had just been booked for dissent, hobbled off with what looked like a hamstring injury. Andrew Surman came on to replace him and went in at left back.

Despite a late scare from a City corner Saints held out and went into half time with a deserved lead - the only criticism would be that it should have been by more than one goal.

City made a double half time change to try and find themselves a way into the game with Steve Brooker and Ivan Sproule coming on for Murray and David Noble.

The early exchanges in the second period were far more even but with City committing more men forward in search of an equaliser there was a bit of space for Saints to play in.

Youssef Safri became the second Saints player in the book on 56 minutes when he pulled down Sproule as he charged away in the Saints half.

Bradley Orr tried his luck from 25 yards out on 59 minutes but slashed wide of the goal while Chris Lucketti blocked Brooker's shot three minutes later.

City were suddenly playing like a team with a lot more belief while Saints were not trying to merely slip into defensive mode.

They were so close to scoring an all important second goal on 69 minutes.

Wright-Phillips got away down the left and did well to look up and see the run of Licka. He squared the ball back across the area into Licka's path but the midfielder's first time sidefooted shot was turned wide by Basso diving low to his right.

Saints made a double change on 71 minutes with Jhon Viafara and Vincent Pericard coming on for Idiakez and John.

The referee waved away appeals for a penalty when Licka whipped in a free kick which Saints felt Orr had handled.

Dele Adebola became the first City player in the book for a foul on Viafara.

City made their final change on 77 minutes with Marvin Elliott replacing Cole Skuse.

Saints had another great chance to finish it off on 83 minutes when Pericard broke clear and squared to Wright-Phillips who took a touch but saw Basso save his shot.

The keeper blocked again from Wright-Phillips' low drive moments later as Saints looked to put the game to bed.

And on 84 minutes they did exactly that.

Pericard's header was brilliantly saved at close range by Basso but the ball came out to Euell who reacted first to stab home from four yards to make it 2-0 and seal the three points.

Wright-Phillips rounded the keeper but couldn't find a teammate just before the fourth official held up the board showing five minutes of stoppage time.

Basso made a good stop from Pericard's header to just manage to haul it back as it looked as though it would cross the line.

But by that stage it didn't matter because Saints had done more than enough to win the game.

When the referee blew his final whistle a massive cheer went up around St Mary's by a crowd pleased with not just the result but a performance that proved Saints do have what it takes to avoid the drop.

Full match report and analysis in Monday's Daily Echo.