Tranmere failed to make it three games unbeaten as they lost 2-0 at Southampton in npower League 1.
Rovers looked on course to go into half time all square only to concede late in the half and again early in the second.
The closest they came to scoring were efforts from Lucas Akins and Dale Jennings, but they never tested the home defence for long periods. The result left Les Parry's side in the bottom four of a very tight division.
There were two changes to the side that started against Brighton &amp; Hove Albion, with Ian Goodison missing out through suspension and Joss Labadie through injury. Nick Wood and Paul McLaren were the replacements while Ian Thomas-Moore returned from injury to be named among the substitutes.
Max Blanchard did well to race back and prevent Rickie Lambert from shooting inside the second minute after the striker got beyond Wood and Scott Wootton, while Peter Gulacsi saved from Richard Chaplow as the home side started at a high tempo.
Lambert headed on to the top of Gulacsi's bar on five minutes when he got on the end of Adam Lallana's cross and Blanchard prevented the striker from getting a clean header on goal three minutes later.
After Gulacsi saved from Jason Puncheon, Lucas Akins tested Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis from outside the area with Tranmere's first shot of the game on 18 minutes.
Dale Jennings shot narrowly over the Southampton bar on 20 minutes while Guly do Prado put an effort wide for the visitors soon after.
A couple of Tranmere corners led to McLaren heading wide from Aaron Cresswell's cross as Rovers continued to come back into the game, but Southampton continued to test the visiting defence and saw both Puncheon and Dean Hammond bring saves out of Gulacsi.
A long range attempt on goal from John Welsh deflected well wide of the target on 41 minutes but the Saints were soon back up the other end and took the lead when Lambert rose unmarked to head Butterfield's cross past Gulacsi and into the net.
It proved to be the final chance of the first half and it was more than ten minutes into the second half before there was any more goalmouth action. However, it proved to be Southampton's second of the afternoon. The ball reached do Prado inside the area and he pulled it back for Lallana who sent his shot straight past the Rovers keeper.
The goal resulted in Thomas-Moore being brought on in place of Akins and Ryan Fraughan replacing Arnaud Mendy.
Efforts from Puncheon and Lambert missed the target for the home side and the Saints had the ball in the net a third time on 72 minutes only for Lee Barnard to be ruled offside, while Sam Morrow came on for Jennings with 15 minutes remaining.
A Lambert free kick went wide of the target on 81 minutes and the striker saw a header saved by Gulacsi two minutes later.
Gulacsi kept out Barnard's effort in the final minute of normal time, the last chance of the game for either side.
Southampton: Davis, Butterfield, Fonte, Seaborne, Harding, Lallana (Holmes 86), Hammond, Chaplow, Puncheon (Chamberlain 79), Guly (Barnard 64), Lambert. Substitutes: Bialkowski, Dickson, Jaidi, Bignall.
Tranmere: Gulacsi, Blanchard, Wood, Wootton, Cresswell, Welsh, McLaren, Mendy (Fraughan 65), Akins (Thomas-Moore 60), Showunmi, Jennings (Morrow 75). Substitutes: Collister, Cathalina, Bakayogo, Power.
Referee: Gavin Ward