Cardiff's woeful league run looked like it was set to continue when Norwich took the lead through Robert Snodgrass in the fifth minute.
However, two goals in as many minutes from Craig Bellamy and Kenwyne Jones following the restart saw Cardiff turn the deficit into an advantage.
After omitting new signing Zaha from the starting line-up, Solskjaer made the inspired move to introduce the Manchester United loanee midway through the first half.
The 21-year-old made an immediate impact and provided the assist as Bellamy equalised in the 50th minute.
"It was a decision I had to make there and then," he told Sky Sports.
"Obviously I was hoping we would be in a better position but I felt we needed some spark and the crowd needed something.
"He gave everyone a lift, that's for sure."
Fellow January window acquisitions Fabio da Silva and Jones also caught the eye of Solskjaer but it was veteran Bellamy who impressed the Bluebirds manager.
"I think Fabio did fantastic, Kenwyne scores the goal and Wilfried makes the impact," he added.
"Maybe the most pleasing thing is to see the form of Craig Bellamy.
"He's apparently the first player who has scored for seven different clubs in the Premier League and that's something for him to take with him. I think he's been magnificent."
Victory over Norwich lifted Cardiff off the foot of the table and Solskjaer believes the experience of Bellamy is crucial to his side's survival campaign.
"When you're a young team, newly promoted, you look at the experience of players like Craig and not least the goalkeeper, he kept us in the game," he said. "He was outstanding."
Although not the most attractive performance, Solskjaer insists it gives the squad a much-needed morale boost.
"For us, after the month we've had, with no points but good performances, today we got three points but maybe not the best of performances, but it gives everyone a lift," he claimed.
"The team spirit within the group is fantastic.
"It's an important month because we play against all the clubs around us in the division. It's great to get a start."
Former Manchester United striker Solskjaer admits he was relieved to get over the line for his first Premier League win as a manager.
"When you're a player, you're thinking where is the next goal going to come from, because you never know.
"It's the same with management, you look for the next win but you are never sure until you get over the line."