Danny Ings continued his red-hot form as he fired Southampton to a vital victory against Aston Villa.
The forward’s brace inspired a 3-1 win which lifted the Saints out of the Premier League drop zone – and plunged Villa into it.
Ings now has 12 goals in his last 13 outings and cashed in again against the wretched hosts at Villa Park.
Jack Stephens also netted in the first half to give Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side a deserved third win in five games, despite Jack Grealish’s excellent late strike.
Villa also lost John McGinn to an ankle injury at the start of a pivotal seven days which sees them now face Norwich and Watford – the two teams below them.
They have won just once in their last nine top-flight outings, losing the last four, and now trail Southampton by three points.
Dean Smith’s side were out-fought from the start and their afternoon started badly when McGinn was carried off after the midfielder landed awkwardly closing down Cedric Soares.
Anwar El Ghazi wasted their best chance early on when he fired at Alex McCarthy after Matt Targett’s ball across goal evaded everyone.
Wesley then turned wide after 19 minutes and Villa were made to pay two minutes later.
Nathan Redmond chipped the ball forward and Shane Long scampered clear of a dawdling Bjorn Engels. His low shot was parried by Heaton into the path of Ings who could not miss from six yards.
After losing McGinn it was a nightmare start for the hosts, which got worse after 31 minutes.
Kortney Hause had already come close to turning into his own net but Heaton was beaten for a second time by a goal of real simplicity.
Villa were awful at the back and this time Stephens got ahead of El Ghazi’s weak challenge to glance in James Ward-Prowse’s corner.
The Saints were in complete control with Villa out out-manoeuvred in every department and offering little suggestion they could recover.
McCarthy palmed over Frederic Guilbert’s speculative effort before the break but Southampton soon had the points in the bag.
Just six minutes into the second half the hosts self-destructed again.
Redmond’s cross should have been dealt with by Marvelous Nakamba but, instead, the midfielder prodded the ball straight to Ings who turned to sweep in from close range.
Redmond hit the side netting and Ward-Prowse’s free kick was gathered by Heaton as Southampton chased a fourth but it was Villa who pulled a goal back with 15 minutes left.
Trezeguet’s corner was only cleared to Grealish on the edge of the box and he took a touch before hitting an excellent half volley into the corner.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg missed the chance to add late gloss to victory when he sliced over with the goal at his mercy after Heaton parried Ings’ shot but the visitors rode out any pressure.