By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer, at St Mary's
Dindane scored Portsmouth's second goal
Portsmouth finally received some respite from their troubles as a late goal glut gave them their first FA Cup victory against fierce south coast rivals Southampton at St Mary's.
With a provisional High Court date set for 1 March to hear a winding-up petition after being granted a one-week stay of execution to allow them to draw up a statement of their financial affairs, Avram Grant's side desperately need to win this fifth-round tie to lift the gloom hanging over their season.
And for long periods of a pulsating clash, played out in an atmosphere brimming with mutual hostility, it looked like Pompey would be deprived of even that measure of comfort.
Southampton, who have won the previous four FA Cup meetings between the teams, created and wasted a succession of first-half chances, the best of which saw Papa Waigo N'Diaye's header clawed out by Pompey keeper David James.
James saved brilliantly from Adam Lallana seconds after half-time before the introduction of substitute Quincy Owusu-Abeyie finally gave Pompey the platform to demonstrate their greater quality.
Owusu-Abeyie, signed on loan until the summer from Spartak Moscow in the transfer window, provided a touch of class to open the scoring after 66 minutes, although Ricky Lambert's header four minutes later put Southampton on level terms.
Former Arsenal striker Owusu-Abeyie then set up Aruna Dindane to restore Pompey's lead after 75 minutes - the killer blow, and the moment when the steam finally ran out of Southampton's fine challenge.
As gaps appeared in all parts, Pompey ruthlessly took advantage, as Nadir Belhadj sprinted away to add a third, with Owusu-Abeyie involved again to set up Jamie O'Hara to score a fourth that gave the scoreline a highly flattering appearance.
But Pompey, who are cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, will not complain about the injection of confidence - and cash into the coffers - from their advance into the last eight of the FA Cup.
The manner in which the normally impassive Grant celebrated in front of Portsmouth's fans at the final whistle, bowing flamboyantly, illustrated the importance of this victory.
Southampton opened at a pace designed to disrupt the rhythm of their Premier League rivals - and it almost worked as they fashioned, and then wasted, an early opening.
Papa Waigo looked certain to score as he met Lambert's cross at the far post, but James did well to scramble his downward header to safety with Southampton fans already on their feet celebrating a goal.
Pompey's attack efforts were few and far between, but O'Hara brought a fine save from Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis with a dipping 20-yard effort.
The rest of the opening period was a tale of Southampton domination, but they could not produce the piece of quality to pierce an uncertain Portsmouth rearguard.
Pompey, for their part, simply could not get Dindane and John Utaka into positions to pose any serious threat.
James survived a scare after 34 minutes when he fumbled Lambert's corner on to the head of Radhi Jaidi, but the Tunisian was taken by surprise and failed to cash in.
Southampton again tested James as the interval approached when another Lambert corner created confusion, but he was able to block Wayne Thomas' header.
Saints were first out of the blocks again in the second half, and it took a crucial save from James to keep out Lallana's header as he stole in on the end of Michail Antonio's cross.
Pompey finally sparked into life and Dindane was inches wide on the turn from 20 yards, while Davis needed to be alert at his near post when Utaka broke clear inside the area.
Grant introduced Owusu-Abeyie to give his side fresh impetus, and the switch worked a treat as he broke the deadlock after 66 minutes.
Allowed to turn inside the area, Owusu-Abeyie made Southampton pay a heavy price by curling a low and precise finish beyond Davis.
Pompey's lead was short-lived as Saints were swiftly back on terms, Lambert heading Dan Harding's free-kick beyond James for his 24th goal of the season.
Just as Saints thought the momentum was back with them, Portsmouth struck on the break to regain the lead.
Owusu-Abeyie played in Dindane, and even though Davis got a hand to his finish, the ball rolled in.
A win that allows troubled Portsmouth to at least assert their supremacy over Southampton and provides a morale boost was wrapped up as Belhadj sprinted clear and tucked a neat finish inside Davis' near post.
The agony increased for Saints as they pressed forward in the hope of a miracle, leaving themselves wide open for another sucker punch, and it allowed Belhadj to race into open spaces again.
He found Owusu-Abeyie, who set up the excellent O'Hara for the fourth.
It set the seal on a win that had Pompey fans forgetting their troubles and dreaming of Wembley again as they wait to see if the club can find a long-term saviour.
Portsmouth manager Avram Grant:
"We believed that we could win the game, (maybe) not 4-1, because Southampton played very well tactically in the first half.
"Second half we were much better.
"It's good for the club and good for the fans.
"Since the draw everybody spoke only about this game, like there is no league, so it is very important for everybody."
Southampton manager Alan Pardew:
"We tried to play a controlled game and not to open it up.
"We did well with that. We were very disappointed not to be leading at half-time, David James was terrific, and it was evenly poised.
"Psychologically, scoring first would have been tough for Portsmouth.
"I think next time we'll play them we'll be in a stronger position. We are a lot closer than the team that played because we had players unavailable."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.