A first-half red card for Steve Cook proved critical as Cherries remain stuck in the relegation mire following defeat to rock-bottom Norwich City.

With the game goalless, captain Cook was shown a straight red card after leaping to tip away an Ondrej Duda shot in the box and after being shown his marching orders, Teemu Pukki stepped up to smash in the resulting penalty in what proved to be the only goal of the contest.

Cherries were handed a lifeline with 10 minutes to play when Ben Godfrey was also dismissed for Norwich, after referee Paul Tierney had consulted the pitchside VAR monitor, but the Canaries held on to clinch a priceless 1-0 victory, their first in the top-flight since November.

Defeat leaves Eddie Howe’s men second from bottom of the Premier League, now three points from safety.

Howe made three changes to the side which lost against Watford last weekend. Aaron Ramsdale returned from a minor hamstring injury to replace Mark Travers in goal, while Diego Rico and Philip Billing were preferred to Simon Francis and Dominic Solanke as Cherries altered formation to a midfield three.

And Cherries got off to a bright start. Callum Wilson, who had not registered a Premier League shot on target since October, connected with a Ryan Fraser cross from the left and headed on, but Tim Krul was well placed.

Billing then fired over before the first chance of note for the hosts as Emi Buendia headed wide at the back post from Max Aarons’s cross.

Alex Tettey also volleyed wide in a game full of endeavour but lacking quality.

Suddenly, with half an hour on the clock, the contest changed.

Danger appeared to have been quelled when Ramsdale slid out to thwart Pukki, but the ball rebounded out to debutant Ondrej Duda, who fired it back goalwards from 25 yards.

With Ramsdale stranded, Steve Cook inexplicably leapt through the air to incredibly tip the effort onto the post. After a lengthy VAR check, the defender was duly dismissed. Up stepped Pukki from the resulting penalty, slamming it down the middle to give the Canaries the lead.

Howe instantly turned to his bench, introducing Francis in place of Harry Wilson, switching to a 4-3-2 with Fraser supporting Callum Wilson in attack.

Cherries got through until the break still only one goal down and created two good chances early in the second period.

Just before the hour mark a Fraser corner fell at the feet of Nathan Ake, but Norwich recovered to scramble the ball away. And Fraser was again involved soon after, collecting a deep Adam Smith cross and cutting it back for Callum Wilson, but the striker slipped and was unable to turn a shot on goal.

Nerves from the home fans were evident having not seen their side win at Carrow Road since September, but they should have gone 2-0 up with 20 minutes to play. Pukki broke the offside trap to burst away from Francis, but fired his one-on-one straight at Ramsdale, who gratefully held on.

With the wind in their sails, Norwich carved out another golden opportunity as Cherries struggled to keep hold of possession. Duda found space on the edge of the box, but his prodded effort was saved by Ramsdale.

But Norwich’s momentum quickly disappeared as they too were reduced to 10 men. Defender Godfrey was initially booked for sliding in on Callum Wilson. However, after consulting the pitchside monitor, Tierney opted to upgrade the yellow to a red and dismiss Godfrey.

Suddenly sensing a late reprieve, Howe threw on Solanke in place of Lerma and forced the Canaries back. Gosling found space in the box, but his header was comfortable for Krul.

Buendia curled a free-kick narrowly wide for Norwich as they looked to kill off the contest, but one was enough to move them within three points of Cherries.

Cherries: Ramsdale; Smith, S Cook, Ake, Rico; Billing, Lerma (Solanke, 79), Gosling (L Cook, 85); H Wilson (Francis, 34), Fraser, C Wilson.

Unused subs: Simpson, Surman, Surridge, Boruc (g/k).

Booked: C Wilson, Smith.

Sent off: S Cook.

Norwich: Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Byram; Buendia (Rupp, 90+3), Tettey, McLean, Cantwell; Duda (Hanley, 78); Pukki (Drmic, 85).

Unused subs: Lewis , Trybull, Hernandez, Fahrmann (g/k).

Booked: Buendia, Krul.

Sent off: Godfrey.

Referee: Paul Tierney.

Attendance: 26,781.