Late goals from Tom Hateley and Jamie Murphy handed Motherwell their first home victory of the season against St Mirren.
Another draw looked on the cards for long spells after Gareth Wardlaw cancelled out Chris Humphrey’s early opener.
But Hateley converted a penalty three minutes from time and then Murphy netted moments later to seal a 3-1 win at Fir Park.
Manager Craig Brown named the same starting eleven for the third game in a row as his side looked to end their poor run at home.
And they made a perfect start as man of the moment Humphrey opened the scoring after only three minutes.
The winger pounced on a poor clearance by David Van Zanten 20 yards from goal and fired an unstoppable shot past Craig Samson into the far corner of the net.
It was a stunning strike by Humphrey, who started the game on the left-flank, as opposed to his usual right-wing position.
St Mirren’s early desperation was epitomised by the fact Michael Higdon could easily have been sent off after two scything tackles in the first ten minutes; both were undoubtedly bookable offences, but only one was punished with a caution.
Humphrey, having switched back to the right, was causing havoc again, as he deceived Jure Travnor and Paul McGowan before whipping a good ball in for Nick Blackman, who shot narrowly wide.
Motherwell were purring and were desperately unlucky not to double their advantage from a free-kick on 22 minutes. Hateley stepped up to curl in a super rasping effort but Samson pulled off a fantastic stop to tip the ball onto the bar.
Samson was warming up to the task of standing in for Paul Gallacher and he pulled off another smart save four minutes later, tipping a long range drive by Blackman wide of the post.
Despite the fact Motherwell should have been two or three up, St Mirren could have gone in at the break all square after coming into the game as the half wore on, and having two terrific chances to draw level.
With five minutes to go until the break Hugh Murray swung in a lovely deep free-kick which was headed temptingly across the face of goal by the towering Higdon – but somehow Gaeth Wardlaw nodded the ball wide from inside the six yard box.
Then, on the stroke of half-time Paul McGowan fired in a superb corner kick which was headed onto the crossbar by the dangerous Higdon.
An almighty scramble for the rebound resulted, with Stephen Craigan heroically clearing off the line amongst the melee, preserving ‘Well’s half time advantage.
Worryingly for Brown’s men St Mirren continued to press for an equliser in the second-half, and once again Higdon was proving a menace.
Some nice interplay five minutes into the second period saw Patrick Cregg released in the insider-right channel of the box and the former Hibs man floated a nice ball across the face of goal. Higdon looked favourite to nod it home before Craigan made a terrific blocking challenge.
Motherwell were dealt a blow on 54 minutes when defender Steven Saunders had to be stretchered off. Steven Hammell came on in his place – just back from injury himself.
Murphy offered some welcome respite for the host’s moments later as he cut in from the right flank and drove an effort into the grateful arms of Samson from the edge of the area.
The Scotland under-21 star was doing his very best to quell the black-and-wide tide all on his own, and he threatened again, absolutely blasting past John Potter on the left flank before firing the ball crisply across the goal from the by-line; but a Lee Mair interception was enough to deny the arriving Steve Jennings a great chance.
But even the enterprising Murphy couldn’t prevent St Mirren from claiming a deserved equiliser on 65 minutes.
The tricky Pul McGowan picked up on a poor defensive clearance by the home side 35 yards out and fed a beautiful ball through to Wardlaw. With the angle tightening, the former Cowdenbeath striker smashed the ball high into Randolph’s net at the near post.
It was a terrific goal, albeit aided by slack defending, and the least the adventurous visitors deserved.
Just after Wardlaw’s strike, the Steelmen could have been awarded a penalty as Blackman appeared to be barged off the ball as he challenged for a Hateley cross. Muted claims were waved away by referee Iain Brines and St Mirren continued to make the running in the proceeding spell.
The introduction of Alan Gow for Humphrey with 15 minutes still to play was intended to ignite Motherwell’s flagging challenge, and the creative attacker would go on to play a big part in the closing stages.
‘Well had done precious little to deserve the three points in the second-half, but in the space of two late minutes they secured the points with two quick-fire strikes.
The goal to allow Motherwell to retake the lead was a classic example of “shooting yourself in the foot” by the Saints. A poor van Zanten clearance ricocheted back towards Samson and, with Gow closing, the keeper slipped, prompting Lee Mair to make a panicked shove on Gow in the box.
Hateley stepped up and fired the resulting penalty into the bottom-left corner of Samson’s net to restore the lead.
And then, with St Mirren pushing forward, a long Mark Reynolds clearance set Gow haring through down the left, and he crossed perfectly for Murphy to fire home at the back post and seal a late win.
[tab:As it happened]
90+3′ FULL-TIME The final whistle is blown by the referee.
90+2 Ross Forbes is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Craig Samson.
90+1 Short corner taken by Nick Blackman from the left by-line.
88′ GOAL Jamie Murphy scores from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Assist by Alan Gow.
88′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Paul McGowan by Ross Forbes. Free kick taken by Hugh Murray.
87′ GOAL Tom Hateley scores from the penalty spot with a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
86′ BOOKING Lee Mair goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.
86′ Penalty awarded for a foul by Lee Mair on Alan Gow.
84′ Corner taken left-footed by Ross Forbes, clearance by Lee Mair.
83′ David van Zanten challenges Nick Blackman unfairly and gives away a free kick. Shot comes in from Tom Hateley from the free kick, blocked by David van Zanten.
83′ Darren McGregor produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that goes harmlessly over the target.
82′ Unfair challenge on Hugh Murray by Alan Gow results in a free kick. Hugh Murray takes the direct free kick.
80′ Foul by Gareth Wardlaw on Darren Randolph, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
79′ BOOKING Caution for Gareth Wardlaw.
77′ Gareth Wardlaw is adjudged to have handled the ball. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick.
76′ Stephen Craigan gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Gareth Wardlaw. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Paul McGowan from left channel, Stephen Craigan makes a clearance.
76′ SUB Chris Humphrey leaves the field to be replaced by Alan Gow.
75′ Foul by Hugh Murray on Keith Lasley, free kick awarded. Ross Forbes takes the free kick.
74′ Stevie Hammell concedes a free kick for a foul on John Potter. Craig Samson restarts play with the free kick.
73′ Stephen Craigan fouled by Michael Higdon, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.
72′ Gareth Wardlaw produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that goes wide left of the target.
70′ SUB John Sutton goes off and Ross Forbes comes on.
70′ Effort from outside the penalty box by Paul McGowan goes wide right of the goal.
69′ Corner taken right-footed by Paul McGowan from the right by-line, Nick Blackman makes a clearance.
69′ Paul McGowan takes a shot. Craig Samson makes a save.
67′ Craig Samson restarts play with the free kick.
67′ BOOKING Caution for Steve Jennings.
67′ Steve Jennings gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Paul McGowan.
64′ GOAL – Gareth Wardlaw equalises from deep inside the penalty area to the top right corner of the goal. Assist by Paul McGowan.
63′ Steve Jennings concedes a free kick for a foul on Gareth Wardlaw. Free kick crossed right-footed by Paul McGowan.
62′ Shot from 25 yards by John Sutton. Craig Samson makes a save.
59′ Effort on goal by Darren McGregor from a long way out goes over the bar.
58′ Jamie Murphy takes a shot. Save by Craig Samson.
58′ Lee Mair challenges John Sutton unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Nick Blackman.
57′ Lee Mair concedes a free kick for a foul on Jamie Murphy. Steve Jennings takes the free kick.
56′ Jamie Murphy has an effort at goal from 12 yards. Craig Samson makes a save.
55′ Patrick Cregg concedes a free kick for a foul on Steve Jennings. Steve Jennings restarts play with the free kick.
54′ SUB Stevie Hammell joins the action as a substitute, replacing Steven Saunders.
52′ Chris Humphrey concedes a free kick for a foul on Jure Travner. Jure Travner takes the free kick.
48′ Free kick awarded for a foul by Patrick Cregg on Nick Blackman. Free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
46′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jamie Murphy by Hugh Murray. Steven Saunders takes the direct free kick.
46′ KICK-OFF The second half begins.
45+1′ HALF-TIME The referee calls an end to the first half.
45+1′ Corner taken by Paul McGowan from the left by-line to the near post, Lee Mair takes a shot.
44′ Shot by Tom Hateley from outside the box goes high over the target.
42′ Foul by Darren McGregor on Nick Blackman, free kick awarded. Nick Blackman restarts play with the free kick.
40′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Humphrey by Jure Travner. Stephen Craigan restarts play with the free kick.
39′ Close range headed effort by Gareth Wardlaw misses to the right of the goal.
39′ Foul by Keith Lasley on Paul McGowan, free kick awarded. Hugh Murray restarts play with the free kick.
36′ Effort from inside the area by Darren McGregor misses to the right of the goal.
35′ Free kick awarded for a foul by Jamie Murphy on Lee Mair. Craig Samson takes the direct free kick.
32′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephen Craigan by Michael Higdon. Darren Randolph restarts play with the free kick.
32′ John Sutton gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Hugh Murray. John Potter restarts play with the free kick.
30′ Chris Humphrey takes a outswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, Unfair challenge on John Potter by Nick Blackman results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Craig Samson.
28′ Corner taken by Chris Humphrey from the left by-line, Michael Higdon makes a clearance.
28′ Keith Lasley takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Patrick Cregg gets a block in.
27′ Corner from left by-line taken by Chris Humphrey.
27′ Corner taken right-footed by Chris Humphrey from the right by-line, clearance made by Hugh Murray.
26′ Nick Blackman has a drilled shot. Save made by Craig Samson.
25′ Paul McGowan takes a shot from 12 yards. Save made by Darren Randolph.
22′ Unfair challenge on Tom Hateley by David van Zanten results in a free kick. Strike comes in from Tom Hateley from the free kick, save by Craig Samson.
21′ Effort from 18 yards by Chris Humphrey. Blocked by John Potter.
20′ Shot from just outside the area by Jamie Murphy misses to the right of the target.
16′ Free kick taken by Stephen Craigan.
16′ BOOKING The referee shows Hugh Murray a yellow card.
16′ Unfair challenge on Nick Blackman by Hugh Murray results in a free kick.
11′ Stephen Craigan takes the direct free kick.
11′ BOOKING Michael Higdon is booked.
11′ Michael Higdon gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Keith Lasley.
9′ Unfair challenge on Nick Blackman by Jure Travner results in a free kick. Stephen Craigan takes the direct free kick.
3′ GOAL Chris Humphrey finds the net with a goal from just outside the box to the right corner of the goal.
2′ Michael Higdon gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Steve Jennings. Tom Hateley takes the direct free kick.
1′ Nick Blackman challenges Darren McGregor unfairly and gives away a free kick. Craig Samson restarts play with the free kick.
1′ Gareth Wardlaw takes a shot. Darren Randolph makes a save.
1′ KICK-OFF The match gets underway.
Motherwell boss Craig Brown:
“We scored two good goals out of the three, a good opening goal and a good second goal and in-between, we didn’t play at all.
“I thought we were very poor today in relation to the way we can play. The second-half performance was very poor in spite of the way we scored two goals at the end.
“I would’ve taken a draw and when we scored at the end, it was a little fortunate for us to win the match, which I think St Mirren deserved a point from.
“St Mirren scored a fine goal and they were back in the game. I felt they were up for it and they competed very, very well and they’re far from the poorest team that have been here this season.
“We genuinely were fortunate but we have good players and they know and I know they can play better than they played this afternoon.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“I’m very frustrated. The players’ application, desire and willingness to make things happen was great. We tried to frustrate Motherwell and then hit on the break.
“We started to come into it and were very unfortunate not to come in level at half-time after hitting the bar.
“In the second-half I couldn’t have asked for any more, other than end product, as Michael Higdon and Gareth Wardlaw really competed well and caused problems.
“Gareth took his goal well and it was well-deserved; that gives us something to take away and build upon.”