City snatched a last-minute victory on their opening game of the 2012-13 season, at home to Huddersfield on Friday night.
In a fairly even first half the Bluebirds produced several half chances, mainly from set piece deliveries, to keep Terrier's keeper Alex Smithies on his toes.
Helguson was providing a good outlet through his aerial prowess and was at the heart of Cardiff's best chance in the first half - his header smashing against the bar from a Whittingham corner kick delivery. Huddersfield were causing just as many problems at the other end, however, as Lee Novak and Sean Scannell looked lively and the impressive Oliver Norwood tested Marshall with a string of long drives.
The second half was a scrappier affair but both sides continued to carve out a steady flow of openings. Gunnarsson almost broke the deadlock as he pounced on the ball after Mutch's shot was spilled by Smithies and McNaughton also tested the Terriers' stopper.
But the defining moment of the match fell in the dying moments. Mark Hudson had remained up-field following a set piece and the skipper was perfectly positioned to fire a loose ball in the box into the back of the net, leaving the Bluebirds, for now at least, at the top of the npower Championship.
The Bluebirds kicked off their Championship campaign ahead of the rest of the division against Huddersfield Town on a drizzly Friday night in the capital. A tangible sense of expectation filled the Cardiff City Stadium as Craig Bellamy started his first competitive match for City, alongside fellow competitive home debutants Jordon Mutch and Heidar Helguson.
The Cardiff midfield were performing well in the opening exchanges as Mutch, Cowie and Gunnarsson showed some neat touches, while Whittingham aimed to create attacks from a deeper position. And it was Jordon Mutch who played in Cowie for the first real chance of the game with a clever disguised ball. Unfortunately though, Cowie prodded the ball wide of Alex Smithies' right hand post.
The Terriers were next to threaten, however, as Lee Novak split the City defence with a penetrative pass down the right hand side. Scott Arfield was the man running on to it, but his low shot was well dealt with by David Marshall, who parried the ball safely away from danger.
James Norwood is a familiar player to the Bluebirds, having scored a late equaliser at the Cardiff City Stadium when playing for Coventry last year. And it was Norwood who was next to sting the hands of Marshall, his long range drive was a bit too central to cause a real problem for the Cardiff stopper though. But, while the Terriers did carve out a couple of openings, it was City who looked more composed on the ball in the opening quarter of the game, spraying the ball around in midfield with some confidence on occasion.
Hudson played a beautiful ball through to Whittingham to launch the next attack for the home side, leading to a period of head tennis after Whittingham's high cross into the box. The ball did eventually fall to Jordon Mutch whose powerful half-volley from the edge of the 18yd box comfortably cleared the Huddersfield bar. The Bluebirds' first corner of the match followed soon after, and both Hudson and Whittingham put more pressure on Alex Smithies as they looked to break the deadlock.
Bellamy wasn't seeing as much of the ball as he would have liked on the left flank. However, after Gunnarsson was put past the Huddersfield defence with an intelligent ball by his compatriot Helguson, Bellamy's low cross evaded the supporting crew of midfield runners. Meanwhile, at the other end, Cardiff's settled back four looked solid and consistent as they blocked a couple of efforts by Norwood. And the Terriers midfielder was having a very good game as he forced Marshall into a spectacular save - Cardiff's number one at full stretch to keep out his ferocious long drive.
With halftime looming another in-swinging corner delivery from Bellamy caused the Huddersfield defence problems. Ben Turner's far post header set up Heidar Helguson, but the Iceman's header smashed back against the bar before some half-hearted penalty appeals for a challenge on Turner in the box were waved away.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0 - 0 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
Huddersfield earned their first corner of the second half with a few minutes played following James Norwood's decent free kick delivery. Helguson proved to be just as useful in his own box, however, as he headed the ball away from danger. Meanwhile, two more penalty appeals were waved away once more up the other end as Helguson battled away with his markers on his home competitive debut.
The Terriers were putting in some committed tackles in midfield, with Gunnarsson, Mutch and Whittingham all feeling the full force of them. Former Blackpool midfielder Southern was the first man to go into the book as a result of this. Jack Hunt was providing a good attacking outlet from right back for the Yorkshire outfit though, and after cutting inside, his fierce left footed shot flew just over Marshall's bar.
Perhaps the best chance of the match up to this point fell to Gunnarsson in the 63 minute. Smithies failed to deal with Jordon Mutch's long drive and Gunnarsson was on hand to pounce upon the rebound. But his goal-bound shot was cleared off the line and fell into the grateful hands of the goalkeeper. Just moments later Hunt caused some more problems for Andrew Taylor, cutting inside once more before squaring to Scott Arfield who was brilliantly closed down as he was on the verge of pulling the trigger.
The Bluebirds faithful were becoming frustrated leading into the final period of the game, as several decisions seemed to go against the home side. But Cardiff soon carved out another opening. Some very good work by Whittingham, Taylor and Bellamy down the left flank led to a chance for McNaughton, positioned on the edge of the box. Unfortunately, his shot lacked venom and was comfortably saved. Hudson then did brilliantly to get back to clear a dangerous Norwood delivery away from the 6 yd box, as Lee Novak was lurking just behind him, ready to tap the ball into the net.
Substitution Cardiff: Joe Mason on for Don Cowie (78 minutes)
Malky Mackay then brought on Joe Mason in an attempt to add some more creativity to a now scrappy affair. However, Huddersfield were looking just as likely to break the deadlock. Neat play from Scannell and left back Paul Dixon led to another long range shot from midfielder Scott Arfield. Marshall was on hand once more to tip the ball wide of his post.
Substitution Cardiff: Filip Kiss on for Jordon Mutch (85 minutes)
The final ten minutes of the match seemed to be petering out as neither side could mount a period of sustained pressure on the opposition's goal. Both sides were creating occasional openings though, and it seemed that one of these could swing the tie in favour of either team. One such opportunity did fall to substitute Joe Mason in the final minutes of the game as he glided inside his marker. Unfortunately though, it wasn't to be - his shot flying just over.
The announcement of 5 minutes of injury time visibly galvanised both the home fans and players, causing the Bluebirds to commit more players forward. And finally it was Mark Hudson, who had remained up-field following a set piece, who took advantage of this. Showing great attacking instincts, the City captain pounced on a loose ball in the box and powered it past the helpless Smithies, leaving City top of the league, at least until Saturday.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-0 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
Substitution Huddersfield:Anthony Gerrard on for Scott Arfield (90 minutes)
Substitution Huddersfield: James Spencer on for Sean Scannell (90 minutes)
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1 - 0 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN