Motherwell secured their Premiership status with a 3-1 victory over Kilmarnock at Fir Park tonight.
The Steelmen notched consecutive victories for the first time this season as Hamilton conceded in stoppage time to lose 3-2 away to Ross County – leaving Stephen Robinson’s men six points ahead of their local rivals.
Now the Fir Parkers could finish as high as eighth with a trip to Inverness waiting on Saturday afternoon.
Following Saturday afternoon’s 1-0 victory over Hamilton, it was a dream start as the ‘Well grabbed the lead after just a minute.
It was straight from the training ground, with Elliott Frear’s clever corner kick cut back for Carl McHugh to finish first time past Jamie MacDonald.
While it was a perfect way to get such a crucial encounter started, in truth, Motherwell had their most disappointing spell of the match in the first half as Kilmarnock took a bit of control.
That was rewarded when Adam Frizzell struck a low effort past Russell Griffiths to level proceedings in the 17th minute after the ball broke kindly for the Killie man.
Lee McCulloch’s side nearly took the lead six minutes later but Greg Taylor was denied by a superb save from Griffiths, who raced off his line to deny the Ayrshire outfit their second goal.
Immediately down the other end, top-scorer Louis Moult was denied a sure goal by a fantastic save from MacDonald, who turned the forward’s effort over the bar after a neat ‘Well move which sent Moult free.
After picking up an early yellow card, Stephen Robinson took no chances as he hooked youngster David Ferguson before half time to ensure his side kept eleven men on the park – he was replaced by Lionel Ainsworth.
It was an inspired substitution too; as the winger proved to be the difference in a fantastic second half for Motherwell.
And eight minutes in to the second period, the Englishman scored what turned out to be a decisive goal in Motherwell’s season.
Standing over a freekick just outside the box, Ainsworth struck a stunning effort from a near impossible angle past the helpless Killie keeper to give ‘Well a crucial lead in their final fixture at Fir Park this season.
The hosts went on to control the match as they neared three massive points, and with news filtering through the stadium that Hamilton were behind against Ross County, the near 5,000 home supporters celebrations stepped up a notch.
And in the 79th minute, they burst into ecstasy.
A lovely reverse ball from Moult out near the touchline in to the run of Frear through the middle of the Killie defence allowed the winger to round the outrushing MacDonald with his first touch and stroke in to an empty net with his second for his first goal in claret and amber to wrap up what was a huge victory for the club.
With one game remaining and top flight football remaining at Fir Park next season, it was a dramatic and memorable ending to the 2016/17 campaign at the home of the Steelmen.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
And with that the Steelmen will be playing in the Premiership next season! COYW!!!!!!
90+3′ | 3-1
‘Well have the ball in the corner and will look to keep it there.
4 minutes added on….
89′ | 3-1
Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for @adamlivi03
85′ | 3-1
Motherwell sub, Moult off for Bowman. Some shift he’s put in!
79′ | 3-1
Excellent breakaway…Moult finds FREAR and he finds the composure to go past MacDonald and slot home. COME ON!!!!!
MATCH ATTAX | Young ‘Well fans can vote now for your Man of the Match. Tweet your name, age, choice & #MatchAttaxMOTM.
77′ | 2-1
Killie sub, Wilson off for Graham
5246 here tonight, 500 from Kilmarnock. Thank you for your support!
72′ | 2-1
Close! Frear gets past his man but shoots just past the post.
68′ | 2-1
Frizzell gets some space about 25 yards out and opts for the shot but it doesn’t trouble Griffiths. Well over.
65′ | 2-1
Kilmarnock sub, Kiltie off for McKenzie.
57′ | 2-1
Close!! Cadden fires a great ball across the face of goal which MacDonald gets a great hand to, to take it away from Moult. Corner
55′ | 2-1
Killie sub, Hawkshaw off for Roberts.
53′ | 2-1
What a goal!!!! Ainsworth fires in a beauty from the deadball. COYW!!!!!!
52′ | 1-1
Taylor is shown a yellow for hacking down Frear as he burst past him. Free-kick in a decent area…
50′ | 1-1
Motherwell free-kick wide on the left….whipped in by Ainsworth but nodded wide by Heneghan
49′ | 1-1
Frear spins his man and he is hauled down. No card though.
48′ | 1-1
Clay gets into the box. There is contact and he goes down but ref books him for simulation.
Both teams are back out and Clay gets the action back underway. COYW!!!
HT: Motherwell 1 – 1 Kilmarnock #MFCvKFC
44′ | 1-1
Kiltie’s shot from range skims the top of the bar and goes over.
39′ | 1-1
Ainsworth bursts past his man and clips in a ball deep to Frear who then forces a corner. From that, Heneghan heads over.
38′ | 1-1
Motherwell sub, Ferguson makes way for Ainsworth.
34′ | 1-1
Jones gets past Ferguson but Griffiths his equal to his shot, saving it with his foot.
31′ | 1-1
Ferguson booked for a foul on Jones on the edge of the box.
24′ | 1-1
Great chance for Moult but MacDonald stands up well and puts it over for a corner.
23′ | 1-1
Griffiths races off his line and does well to block at Taylor’s feet.
19′ | 1-1
Motherwell almost back in front! Moult sets up Cadden with his chest but he blasts inches wide from 20 yards.
17′ | 1-1
Goal – ‘Well are pegged back. Ball breaks kindly for Frizzell and he finds a way past Russell from 12 yards.
11′ | 1-0
Lasley booked. Looked harsh to be honest.
8′ | 1-0
McDonald gets in behind the Killie defence and squares to Moult who spins well but his shot is blocked. Unlucky.
5′ | 1-0
Free-kick wide on the left. Frear to take…..MacDonald gets off his line and claims well.
1′ | 1-0
Corner kick is worked short to McHUGH who blasts home. COYW!!!!
Kilmarnock get the game underway. COYW!!!
Out come the two sides. Beautiful night here in Lanarkshire…
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:
Kilmarnock interim manager Lee McCulloch: