Eric Dier scored the only goal as Tottenham edged 10-man Cardiff in a scrappy Premier League contest at Wembley on Saturday.
Dier's goal after eight minutes should have set Spurs on the road to a comfortable victory against a club yet to record a top-flight victory this season.
But that was as good as it got for the hosts, who wasted further goalscoring opportunities and survived periods of sustained Cardiff pressure.
The Welsh club's hopes of snatching a result faded when Joe Ralls was sent off for an appalling challenge on Lucas Moura, with Spurs holding on for the three points.
Keen to bounce back from a 4-2 Champions League defeat at home to Barcelona on Wednesday, Spurs made a flying start.
A Davinson Sanchez header from a corner landed at the feet of Joe Bennett, who could not shape himself for a clearance before England midfielder Dier prodded home.
The Bluebirds threatened a response in the 23rd minute, when Josh Murphy demonstrated his pace before lifting the ball over Hugo Lloris, only for Toby Alderweireld to impressively clear off the line under pressure from Junior Hoilett.
Tottenham should have added to Dier's strike in the closing stages of the first half, when Lucas placed a shot just wide of the left-hand post and Son Heung-min – the architect of his team-mate's chance – blazed over from a promising position just inside the Cardiff box.
The Cardiff goal came under threat once more soon after the restart, with Neil Etheridge pushing a Harry Kane header into the path of Lucas, whose shot was blocked on the line by Sean Morrison.
The task facing Neil Warnock's side got tougher just short of the hour mark, though, when Ralls hacked down Lucas in full flow, earning a red card from referee Mike Dean.
Lloris had to be alert to keep out a Morrison header that would have earned an unlikely, yet deserved point, and Mauricio Pochettino will want to see improvements after the international break.
What it means: Spurs keep pace at the top
This victory lifts Spurs to within a point of top two Manchester City and Liverpool ahead of a meeting between the pair on Sunday, while Cardiff remain winless since their return to the Premier League.
Lively Lucas a bright spark for Spurs
Spurs' struggles to stretch their advantage were not for the want of trying from Lucas, who was a particular nuisance for Cardiff in the first half, popping up all over the pitch and taking on blue shirts at will.
The main problem for Pochettino's men was that Kane was dropping too deep – perhaps trying to fill the gaps left by injured pair Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen – and often leaving Lucas isolated as the most advanced attacker.
Ralls lets down battling Bluebirds
Lucas’ endeavour did reap some benefit for Spurs when he was brought down by Ralls' reckless lunge.
It was an unfortunate moment for the Bluebirds, who had looked capable of perhaps snatching a goal back before going a man down.
Tottenham have a London derby in store at West Ham after the international break, while Cardiff welcome Fulham to the Welsh capital – a match they will feel they must win if they have ambitions to remain in the Premier League beyond the current season.