Portsmouth, with three newcomers in yet another patched-up team, held out for 63 minutes before they succumbed.
Lewis Grabban took his tally for the season to 13 with the first goal and Marc Pugh made the game safe with a second after 75 minutes.
Howe admitted his team were a home banker against a Portsmouth side who have now gone a club-record 19 matches without victory.
He said: "It is good to be so close to the top, but this was a big victory. Everyone thought it should be easy for us, but we knew it would not be.
"Portsmouth were well-organised and disciplined and we had to be patient. The crowd understood what we were up against and stuck with us.
"Teams will try to stop you playing and that is their right. Six Portsmouth players did not move from defending their goal.
"But the longer the game went on we knew it would open up for us and we would create chances and that is what happened."
Grabban took a pass from Josh McQuoid to open the scoring and Pugh ran on to a pass from Brett Pitman to add Bournemouth's second.
Pitman also hit the crossbar with a
header and in the dying seconds substitute Matt Tubbs was clear, but was denied by on-rushing goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.