Rovers geared up for their first FA Cup semi-final in 45 years by all but securing their Premier League status for another season following a 3-0 win over Southampton on this day in 2005.

Morten Gamst Pedersen set them on their way, before Steven Reid added a third, having also had a hand in the second that saw defender Andreas Jakobsson turn in to his own goal.

It was the perfect build up for Rovers’ FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium as they continued their impressive trajectory under Mark Hughes.

And Hughes felt his side could travel to south Wales with genuine optimism, adding: “The situation is we are in the semi-finals for the first time in forty odd years and we are going to enjoy it and hope to get to the final.

“It was perfect preparation. Not only did we get the three points but the manner of getting them will also help us confidence wise for Saturday.

“We wanted to try and keep the distraction of the semi final away from the players, which is always difficult to do, but given our situation and the need to keep the gap between ourselves and Southampton, I thought they were magnificent.

“Each and every one of them put in a really committed performance and there was no sign that anyone was thinking one week ahead, which was important.

“We’re not as defensive as people make out.

“We do have a threat and in fairness to Arsenal and Mr Wenger, when we played them here before he said good things about us, and he understands that we are a difficult side to play against so he’ll give us the respect we deserve.”

Key to Rovers’ upturn in fortunes had been their defensive resolve, their shut-out against the Saints taking them to 11 clean sheets in 19 matches,

The January signing of Ryan Nelsen had proved key, his partnership with Andy Todd giving Rovers plenty of confidence heading in to the Gunners clash.

And Hughes explained: “I’ve said time and time again if you haven’t got a defensive base then you can’t build performances or gain results.

“We’ve addressed that and the lads at the back have been fantastic once again.

“In the past four or five games Brad (Friedel) hasn’t had a great deal to do, barring the Manchester United game, so I’m delighted with the way we are playing at the moment, and the fact we scored three should help confidence so we can look forward to the semi-final with relish.”

Rovers made spectacular progress under Hughes during his first six months in charge, all but guaranteeing their survival with six games of the season still remaining.

“We’ve been threatening to do that on occasions this year and it hasn’t happened to us as many times as we would have liked, but everything came together today,” the manager purred. Morten Gamst Pedersen was the ace in the pack, the Norwegian scoring a stunner opener to send Rovers on their way.

South African Aaron Mokoena floated an exquisite 50-yard pass over enemy lines, straight into the path of Pedersen, who had raced beyond Rory Delap, before squeezing in his seventh goal of the season with perfection from the tightest of angles.

Rovers continued to look dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line and the roof finally caved in on The Saints three minutes into the second half when hapless defender Jakobsson attempted to clear a right-wing cross from Reid but only succeeded in slicing it past his own keeper.

Reid scored the goal his performance deserved when he turned in a Dominic Matteo cross on 55 minutes after the Saints had failed to deal with Pedersen’s near post corner.

With the points safely in the bag, the last half hour had the feeling of a testimonial about it and Tugay, in particular, treated the home fans to a spot of showboating.