The Saints capitalized on their bright start to the game by taking a fifth-minute lead through Morgan Schneiderlin when the midfielder netted a knock-down from yards out.
Rickie Lambert then doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark as his long-range free kick deflected off Daniel Sturridge and nestled in the bottom corner.
Philippe Coutinho‘s goal in first-half stoppage time halved the deficit when he tapped in after Sturridge’s shot had been blocked.
Liverpool pressed in the latter stages in search of a point, but Jay Rodriguez‘s late strike sealed the win for Southampton.
The pregame team news confirmed a return for Martin Skrtel in place of Jamie Carragher, who picked up a knock. Joe Allen for Lucas Leiva was the only other change to the starting XI that began against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
The Reds went into the game on the back of a four-game winning run, which had significantly bolstered hopes of securing European qualification for next season.
However, they found themselves trailing within five minutes at St Mary’s when a lively start from the hosts yielded a goal for Schneiderlin. Gaston Ramirez‘s cross was headed down by Rodriguez, allowing the Southampton No. 4 to nudge the ball beyond Jones from close range.
The Saints could have doubled their advantage within a matter of moments when Lambert found himself one-on-one with Brad Jones, but the visiting goalkeeper stood up well to thwart him.
Southampton was in the ascendancy and after Rodriguez’s first-time drive from the edge of the box had brought another stop from Jones, the striker blazed over when a goal seemed inevitable after Liverpool’s custodian had clawed Adam Lallana‘s attempted lob away.
Indeed, the Reds’ first shot on target did not arrive until the 28th minute when Sturridge attempted to catch Artur Boruc out of position, but the 25-yard effort was collected by the home keeper.
Southampton then furthered its lead in the 33rd minute — Lambert’s free kick from distance deflecting off Sturridge and finding the bottom corner with Jones wrong-footed.
Liverpool went close to reducing the arrears soon after, but Coutinho was foiled by the legs of Boruc after Glen Johnson‘s pass had played him in behind the home side’s defense.
The Brazilian made sure he did find the net in first-half stoppage time, however, when he tapped home following a goalmouth scramble to give the visitors hope of salvaging something.
Sturridge had the Reds’ first opportunity of the second half, but his volley was off target as Southampton could only half clear a Steven Gerrard center.
The visitors were offering far more than they had done in the first period, though Boruc wasn’t tested again until the 65th minute when he claimed a Suarez free kick from range with a routine stop.
Southampton threatened a third when Lallana found space in the box, but his attempt to dink the ball over Jones was repelled by a strong hand from the Australian.
However, the South Coast side did make sure of the three points when Rodriguez weaved his way beyond Lucas and Skrtel before slotting home at the second attempt to condemn Liverpool to defeat.
Liverpoolfc.com journalists’ man of the match: Philippe Coutinho