Second half strikes from Fulham forwards Carlos Vinicius and Aleksandar Mitrovic ended Southampton’s eleven-year stay in the Premier League as Rubén Sellés’ side went down with a whimper in the St. Mary’s sunshine this afternoon.

The highlights of the Saints stay in the top flight, which saw them reach a League Cup final at Wembley and qualify for the Europa League, seemed a long way away as they failed to put up much of a fight despite sitting eight points away from safety at the start of this fixture. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stayed to the end – despite being roundly booed when his presence was revealed at half time – and there was more discontent amongst the home fans who remained inside a rapidly-emptying ground when the worst was confirmed at the final whistle.

Fulham had by far the better of a first half that was played at a rather pedestrian pace. Carlos Vinicius, who was rewarded for his fine form with another start up front despite Aleksandar Mitrovic being available again after his eight-match ban, saw a vicious volley from eight yards bravely blocked by Lynaco, who then somehow avoided giving away a penalty despite clearly handling a cross from Harry Wilson. The defender then cleared off the line after Willian had wriggled free to shoot goalwards at the back post with Saints somewhat fortunate to level at the interval.

Charly Alcaraz thought he had fired in his fifth Premier League goal two minutes after the restart when he raced onto a fine through ball from James Ward-Prowse, but his effort was ruled out for offside. Within a minute, the home side’s defence had been breached. A superb switch of play from Tom Cairney gave Harry Wilson possession on the right wing and, even though Lynaco looked favourite to win possession when the Welsh winger looked to find Harrison Reed in the box, the former Southampton midfielder’s robust challenge saw the ball fall kindly for Vinicius, who found the unguarded net with the simplest of finishes from eight yards.

The Saints badly needed a route back into the contest but recalled striker Paul Onuachu spurned their best opportunity heading high over the cross from Kyle Walker-Peters’ cross. Mitrovic made his long-awaited return from the substitutes bench, replacing goalscorer Vinicius to a rapturous reception from more than 3,000 travelling supporters, and took just seven minutes to make his mark. The Serbian striker stooped to head home a trademark goal from Wilson’s floated cross and celebrated his twelfth top flight goal – making this his most successful season in front of goal in England – with the Fulham fans. With that goal, Fulham reached 50 league goals for only the third time in the Premier League and there are still two more fixtures to play this term.

Southampton did muster a few final flurries as the clock ticked down with substitute Kamaldeen Sulemana turning sharply in the box but shooting wide. Manor Solomon did test Alex McCarthy right as the end as Fulham finished firmly in the ascendancy. This rather routine victory was Fulham’s fifteenth of a commendable campaign – setting a new club record in the top flight – and lifted Marco Silva’s side up to ninth in the table. The Cottagers are still on target to overhaul their highest ever Premier League points total, achieved by Roy Hodgson’s 2008/09 team, with the former Fulham manager set to return to Craven Cottage with Crystal Palace next weekend.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Maitland-Niles (A. Armstrong 82), Bednarek, Lyanco; Lavia, Ward-Prowse; Walcott (Sulemana 62), S. Armstrong (Elyounoussi 73), Alcaraz (Djenepo 72); Onuachu (Mara 61). Subs (not used): Bazunu, Bree, Caleta-Car, Aribo.

BOOKED: Lavia, A. Armstrong.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Diop; Palhinha (Lukic 77), Reed; Wilson (Kebano 78), Willian (Solomon 78), Cairney (Decordova-Reid 69); Vinicius (Mitrovic 65). Subs (not used): Rodak, Cedric Soares, Duffy, Harris.

GOALS: Vinicius (48), Mitrovic (72).

REFEREE: Thomas Brammall (South Yorkshire).