Brave Saints battled gallantly but finished empty handed after a 2-1 defeat to Wolves at St Mary’s.

It was an entertaining game that had a bit of everything as Saints fell 2-0 down after 18 minutes shortly before pulling a goal back.

But the decisive moment came two minutes before half time when Jason Euell was controversially sent off.

Fired up Saints came out after the break and outplayed table topping Wolves but couldn’t get a breakthrough to bag themselves a point.

Saints created an opening in the opening stages of the game when Morgan Schneiderlin’s ball in from the right reach David McGoldrick but his difficult acrobatic volley went wide.

Moments later a corner came out to Schneiderlin but he sliced his volley off target.

But despite Saints’ good start it was Wolves who took the lead on eight minutes.

Saints cleared a corner out of the box but only out wide to the left and Carlos Edwards.

He cut back onto his right foot and curled a ball in to the far post where Chris Iwelumo had evaded the Saints defence and the offside trap and he powered a header at goal that Kelvin Davis got a hand to but couldn’t keep out and it was 1-0.

It should have got even worse two minutes later as Edwards beat Jack Cork down the right and crossed low. It took a deflection but was recovered by Michael Kightly but his rushed finish from eight yards out was wide.

McGoldrick gave Saints some hope on 16 minutes when he came close to levelling.

A neat one-two with Schneiderlin saw him through with the keeper but Carl Ikeme got down low to his left to save.

All too predictably though Wolves got the second goal two minutes later.

Again it was Edwards down the left who did the damage, this time with a near post cross that was controlled by David Jones collecting across his man before volleying into the ground and the far corner for 2-0.

Wolves thought they had another moments later but the linesman had flagged for a foul by Kightly before the midfielder finished.

Adam Lallana forced Ikeme to turn over the bar at the other end with a deflected cross and from the corner on 21 minutes Saints made it 2-1.

Lallana whipped it in from the right wing and it was met by the head of Alex Pearce who powered home.

A resurgent Saints suddenly looked back in it and Andrew Surman drilled an effort from 30 yards that was fiercely struck but straight at Ikeme.

Ollie Lancashire was the first man in the book for tripping Edwards on 29 minutes.

Davis made a brilliant save a minute later after Rudi Skacel had only headed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s cross to the edge of the area. Jones controlled on his chest and volleyed towards the top corner but the Saints keeper turned it over.

Karl Henry had a chance from the corner but drilled his effort across goal and wide.

Davis had to make another good save on 33 minutes, this time turning wide after a low drive from Kevin Foley.

As the game continued at quite a pace Skacel fired a volley wide from just outside the box five minutes before the break.

Saints were handed a massive setback on 43 minutes when Euell was sent off.

He and Richard Stearman both dived in feet first for a loose ball but the Wolves man came off by far the worst. Referee Lee Mason decided Euell had jumped in with studs up and immediately brandished the red card.

As the half ended it left Saints facing an uphill battle but they did at least have an angry crowd feeling a sense of injustice over the sending off behind them.

Jan Poortvliet made a half time change with Bradley Wright-Phillips coming on for Oscar Gobern as Saints settled into more of a 4-4-1 formation.

Edwards didn’t take long to get his first shot off but Davis was equal to it down to his right.

Saints were forced into another change on 51 minutes when Lancashire hobbled off after failing to shake off a heavy landing to be replaced by Chris Perry.

Saints immediately went up the other end and were so nearly level as Wright-Phillips’ low drive from 20 yards beat Ikeme but hit the inside of the post and came back out.

Lallana had an even better chance moments later but missed the target after Ikeme had spilled under the challenge of McGoldrick.

Michael Mancienne was booked for Wolves after a foul on Schneiderlin.

Skacel tried an effort from a free kick from distance but it was straight at Ikeme.

It was really encouraging stuff from Saints who were putting Wolves on the backfoot even though they were a man down.

Wolves responded with their first change on 67 minutes as Andy Keogh replaced Ebanks-Blake.

Keogh had an immediate impact laying the ball off to Jones but his first time effort was saved by Davis while Foley’s header moments later ended the same way before Surman was booked for dissent.

McGoldrick had an opening on 73 minutes when Wright-Phillips cut the ball back but he couldn’t steer the ball goalwards under pressure at the near post.

Jones had a chance to seal the win two minutes later but put a free header from ten yards out wide.

Skacel was the next Saints man booked for dissent, Henry of Wolves followed for the same offence.

Saints had huge appeals for a penalty turned down on 82 minutes when Stearman ran across McGoldrick who went down but the referee waved them away.

Davis was in business again two minutes later diving to his right to save from Henry’s drive from 20 yards out.

Both sides made a change with five minutes remaining with Dave Edwards on for Carlos Edwards for Wolves and Jordan Robertson replacing Schneiderlin for Saints.

Wolves attempted to run the clock down on the four minutes of stoppage time by bringing on Sam Vokes for Kightly.

Vokes did come close late on when he fired into the side netting but in the end the league leaders had just about done enough to see off Saints’ spirited challenge.