Exeter City's 2011 got off to the worst possible start as they were comprehensively beaten at St Mary's this afternoon by a classy Southampton side that moved into second place in the League One table.
Brazilian attacker Guly Do Prado gave the home side a one goal lead at the break before scoring a vital second on 66 minutes.
Adam Lallana curled home a right footed effort past Paul Jones 14 minutes later before a late goal from substitute Lee Barnard in added time meant it was an unhappy return to competitive action for the Grecians.
James Dunne missed three days of training this week so he was just named as a substitute while fellow flu victim Artur Krysiak was unavailable for selection. That meant that Paul Jones made his first appearance since the defeat against Brentford back in October between the sticks.
Otherwise it was a case of as you were for the Grecians with Tisdale keeping faith with the rest of the side that hammered Sheffield Wednesday 14 days ago.
Despite suffering an early scare when Lallana ghosted through the defence and lifted the ball over the bar, City started strongly. They chalked up a number of corners and carved out one real chance when Ryan Harley's right footed cross was fired over by Jamie Cureton.
David Noble then blazed over before, at the other end, Rickie Lambert out-jumped Matt and sent his header wide infront of the 1,242 travelling fans.
he home side knitted together some tremendous passing at a real tempo throughout and a text-book example of this came on 11 minutes when only a tremendous tackle from Richard Duffy stopped on-loan Brazilian Do Prado from making it 1-0.
The lanky 29-year-old then smashed a right footed effort wide six minutes later before he eventually made the breakthrough. The ball bounced of Noble and found the unmarked striker on the left-hand edge of the box and after racing through, he curled a right-footed shot past the advancing Jones.
Sercombe scored a memorable effort against Sheffield Wednesday at The Park in City's last outing and he almost repeated that feat on 28 minutes when his cracking right footed effort was tipped over the bar by Kelvin Davis as City looked to recover from that set back.
But just two minutes later it was the other keeper involved in the action, Paul Jones showing great reactions to push Richard Chaplow's cross-cum-shot around the post.
Due to the cold snap Jones hadn't even played any reserve team football since losing his place to Krysiak but he showed little signs of rustiness five minutes later when he saved well from a thumping Lambert effort.
The last real chance of note for the Grecians in the first half fell to Scott Golbourne at the back post after Steve Tully's right footed cross but he shot a low effort straight at Davis. As the impressive numbers of travelling fans reflected on the first 45 at the interval they had plenty to be positive about, but it was obvious that the second goal would be key.
Southampton's attack, who scored four times against Huddersfield earlier this week, went searching for that crucial second with Lambert and former Grecian Dan Seaborne both coming close.But then just after the 50 minute mark the goal did come and it was a hugely disappointing one to concede.
City's defence seemed to switch off after conceding a throw in after Scott Golbourne's misplaced pass went straight out of play. The home side took it quickly and the ball was thrown towards Alex Chamberlain, son of former City player Mark, and Matt Taylor.
The speedster, linked with Premier League clubs in recent weeks, got to the ball ahead of the Grecian captain and burnt away down the right hand flank. He then swept a cross to the back post where Do Prado was lurking for a simple second.
The sucker punch of that dynamic counter attack prompted Paul Tisdale to introduce Daniel Nardiello for Billy Jones, but the best chances City could carve out came through Harley who fired one shot wide and one straight at Davis.
At the other end Do Prado was very close to a hat-trick after another swift breakaway sent him through on goal. He advanced on Jones and bent goal-bound effort towards the far corner but Harley was there on the line to deny the Brazilian.
But from the resulting corner Southampton grabbed a third. Nigel Adkins' men seemed to have messed up their short corner routine but Sercombe gave them a second bite of the cherry in the left-hand corner. Lallana made him pay with a right footed effort that bounced in front of Paul Jones before nestling in the far corner.
Lallana dragged a shot wide minutes after before Tis made a double substitution to try and stage a miraculous comeback, former Saint Jake Thomson and John O'Flynn entering the fray.
City were throwing more and more men forward in search of a way back into the game and were getting perilously close to being punished on the break. First Logan's misplaced pass put Lambert clear and from his square ball Barnard blazed over before Jones saved after Lallana was also sent one on one with City's number 27.
A top-class Saints attack then ended with Chaplow curling an effort over while the best City's attack could muster was an O'Flynn header from Thomson's curling cross from the right flank.
Paul Jones then made a great save from Dickson after he scooped the ball over Jones' head before Southampton added the icing to their Christmas cake in the dying seconds when Barnard slotted home a routine finish from Ryan Dickson's knockdown.
A hugely disappointing start to the new year for the Grecians but we have to wait less than 48 hours to see if City can bounce back when Brighton heading to The Park on Monday.