Swansea beat Bristol City 2-0 to remove any lingering fears of being dragged in to the Championship relegation battle on Sunday.
Liam Cullen and Olivier Ntcham were on target as Swansea claimed a first win in seven games and move 10 points clear of 22nd-placed Huddersfield with eight games remaining.
Bristol City are two points better off than the Swans following a third defeat in five games.
The Robins did little to trouble Andy Fisher, a goalkeeper under pressure after recent mistakes, although Andreas Weimann saw a stoppage-time effort disallowed for offside as Swansea claimed a first clean sheet of 2023.
The hosts were fourth in the table after beating Welsh rivals Cardiff in October and hoping to mount a promotion challenge. But a miserable run of three wins in 21 games since had seen them edge ever closer towards the relegation scrap.
Bristol City had won an FA Cup replay here in January, but Swansea’s need for a fast start was greater and Joel Piroe fired wide from an angled position after just 11 seconds.
Cullen wasted a sixth-minute chance as he failed to control Liam Walsh’s clever pass in front of goal and Ryan Manning saw his drilled effort blocked by Zak Vyner.
Robins goalkeeper Max O’Leary was tested for the first time just before the half-hour mark when Harry Darling met Matt Grimes’ diagonal ball at the far post. O’Leary pushed out Darling’s header and Cameron Pring blocked Walsh’s follow-up effort.
The visitors’ reprieve did not last long as Walsh found Ntcham and the Cameroon midfielder released Cullen who stretched to fire home his seventh goal of the season.
Mark Sykes shot straight at Fisher from 25 yards before Bristol City’s best opening came in the dying embers of the first half. Alex Scott reached the byline with a lovely piece of skill and set up Andy King for a shooting opportunity that Piroe snuffed out.
The pattern of the contest remained the same after the interval with Cullen just clearing the crossbar and Piroe heading against the post.
Bristol City sent on Weimann and Anis Mehmeti to provide an attacking threat, and Fisher was forced to collect Omar Taylor-Clarke’s drive from distance.
Swansea put the contest to bed 13 minutes from time when Ntcham strode through a tiring Robins midfield.
Jamie Paterson’s cross was headed back by fellow substitute Morgan Whittaker, and Ntcham neatly switched the ball on to his right foot to beat O’Leary from 14 yards.
Martin: We must build on win
Swansea manager Russel Martin:
“We’re not going to get carried away with one win, we need to build on that now. But I think it gives us a real positive place to build from.
“I think it will relax people who have been feeling a certain way about me or the team or the group.
“Maybe it won’t relax them, but it will certainly relax people around the club and I think that will do us the world of good.
“Tough times don’t last. I think we’ve learnt so much as a group of staff over this period, the players have as well, and we got what we deserved.
“I think it would have been much more difficult over the next couple of weeks if we didn’t win this one, with the game that we have next.”
Pearson: We ran out of steam at the wrong time
Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson:
“It wasn’t that close [Cabango’s arm to Weimann]. His arm is in the air and the ball hits him. Their bench were laughing.
Asked if he thought VAR would have awarded a penalty in the Premier League, Pearson added: “I would hope so, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.
“But we lost 2-0 and we didn’t get it. I’ve spoken more than enough this season about our friends who patrol the pitch in a different colour and it’s becoming boring.
“We probably ran out of steam at the wrong time, it’s been a tough week and two defeats on the road. But I’m reasonably happy that players in our squad have made shifts in the right direction.”