The Canaries boss dropped captain Sebastien Bassong and club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel from the previous weekend's draw at home to Stoke and brought five new players in for the trip to St Mary's.
Gary Hooper, who has not scored since Boxing Day, was given the opportunity to spearhead a front three, with Ryan Bennett, Joseph Yobo, Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass all given the nod.
And despite late goals from Johan Elmander and Snodgrass, Saints proved far superior, running out 4-2 winners to keep City firmly entrenched in a relegation dogfight.
"We have lacked that consistency which is why I made a few changes," said Hughton. "I wanted to give others an opportunity to come in and put pressure on the lads they were replacing.
"What you can do as a manager is prepare during the week, set the team up but you are then reliant on good individual displays. It was a reaction to form.
"We did well with a couple of clean sheets but then we were disappointed with the Stoke result and sometimes you just feel you want to freshen things up, irrespective of the time of the season.
"You generally know what your best XI is but we have competition here and I wanted to use it.
"We have a lot of players who have played a lot of games and our form has been disappointing.
"They are all difficult decisions whenever you change the team but we have others who are fit and pushing to be in the team and competition in the squad and all I try to do is pick the best side for each opponent."