But substitute Zaha teed up Craig Bellamy for the equaliser just after the break, with Kenwyne Jones firing home the winner on his debut just over a minute later.
"Sometimes you just have to make decisions and do what you think is right," said Cardiff boss Solskjaer.
"I felt it was right to bring Wilf on, it lifted the crowd and the players. We needed a lift. It could have been anyone I took off, but I didn't have too many doubts.
"It maybe frightened the Norwich defenders because he is such a great and exciting talent.
"Going forward, he is one of the best I've seen. Defensively, I've got a few hours teaching ahead of me. But he's a young lad and you want him to give us what he can do.
"That's what he can do - lift us like he did today. It was a great debut."