Cardiff paid the perfect tribute to their missing striker Emiliano Sala with a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth on an emotional evening in the Welsh capital.
Bobby Reid’s double – a fifth-minute penalty and a clinical finish within 15 seconds of the second-half kick-off – gave Cardiff only a second win in nine league games on a night which was about a lot more than just football.
This was Cardiff’s first home game since record signing Sala and pilot David Ibbotson went missing after the plane carrying them over the English Channel disappeared on January 21, two days after the Argentinian striker had completed a £15million move from French club Nantes.
Programme notes, penned by owner Vincent Tan and the rest of the Bluebirds’ board, said events had shaken “Cardiff City to its very core” and that they were now playing for Sala and Ibbotson.
There were a series of tributes before kick-off, with Sala’s photograph appearing on the front cover of the matchday programme and the two captains, Sol Bamba and Andrew Surman, laying floral tributes on the halfway line.
Sala’s name, in the colours of his native Argentina, was also spelled out behind one of the goals as supporters held cards aloft.
Cardiff, who sported daffodils embroidered on their shirts in Sala’s honour, appeared energised by the poignant tributes as Oumar Niasse was instantly sent through by Reid, but the striker’s heavy touch allowed Artur Boruc to collect in the Cherries’ goal.
Two minutes later Steve Cook inexplicably handled Josh Murphy’s cross and Reid stroked home the spot-kick down the middle as Boruc dived to his right.
The Cardiff players celebrated by racing towards the dug-out to hold up a blue shirt bearing Sala’s photograph.
Murphy saw his effort smothered by Boruc as Niasse’s pace continued to cause problems for Bournemouth opponents fresh from humbling Chelsea 4-0 in midweek.
Bournemouth’s attack had been blunted by injuries to Callum Wilson and David Brooks, although their absences allowed the fit-again Dominic Solanke to make a debut following his £19million move from Liverpool.
Solanke had an ineffective game, eventually withdrawn just after the hour mark, but Bournemouth had chances to equalise at 1-0 with Ryan Fraser curling wide when the ball broke into his path off Bruno Ecuele Manga.
Bournemouth went even closer when Surman was allowed time and space to shoot from 25 yards, his attempt diverted onto the crossbar by the fingertips of Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
Josh King forced another save from Etheridge but, having led at half-time for the first time in any game this season, Cardiff made a dramatic start to the second period.
Reid beat the offside trap as he raced onto Aron Gunnarsson’s pass, and he rounded Boruc to roll the ball home for his fourth goal of the season.
The goal came so soon after the restart that Neil Warnock did not even see it, the Cardiff manager still making his way from the dressing room to the dug-out.
Callum Paterson and Junior Hoilett might have given Cardiff added breathing space but for timely Bournemouth blocks on the edge of the penalty area.
The Cherries’ best chance of mounting a late rally went when Nathan Ake headed Jordon Ibe’s free-kick wide.
Substitute Kenneth Zohore saw his last-gasp effort saved but Cardiff secured a first league win of 2019 to move within two points of 17th-placed Burnley.