Mackay was granted a reprieve by Malaysian club owner Vincent Tan last weekend after being on the verge of losing his job, but the Boxing Day loss left his side just a point above the relegation places.

Southampton did the damage in the first 27 minutes at the Cardiff City Stadium, with Jay Rodriguez claiming a brace and Rickie Lambert also finding the target.

It was Southampton's first win since November 9 and left them seven points below the European places.

Prior to the game, around 200 Cardiff fans protested against Tan, while chants of 'Don't sack Malky Mackay!' were also heard from the home support.

It made for an uneasy atmosphere, but things could have been quite different had Peter Whittingham not spurned a glorious chance to put Cardiff ahead in the 11th minute.

Craig Noone picked out his team-mate's late run with a sweeping cross from the right, but Whittingham could only lift the ball over the bar.

Southampton punished Whittingham's profligacy only three minutes later, with Adam Lallana rolling a low ball across the face of goal that a sliding Rodriguez converted at the back post.

Six minutes later it was 2-0, after Rodriguez ghosted in behind Kevin Theophile-Catherine to volley home.

The former Burnley man then played a part in his side's third goal in the 27th minute, flicking the ball on for Lambert to slam a shot past Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall.

Andrew Taylor came close to replying immediately with a deflected shot, but Southampton goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga readjusted sharply to palm the ball away.

Mackay introduced Andreas Cornelius at half-time, but he was unable to make an impact, with Gazzaniga pushing away one header from the Danish striker and another headed attempt flying wide.

Luke Shaw might even have added to Southampton's lead, but the marauding left-back was thwarted by Marshall.