Motherwell contrived to throw away a half-time lead, three points and a great opportunity to extend their lead over fourth placed Aberdeen as they lost 2-1 to St Mirren.
The third meeting between these two sides inside three weeks finally produced a winner in regulation time. And once agin ‘Well were deflated at the end when another late loss cost them dearly.
A Liam Donnelly penalty after 12 minutes allowed the Steelmen to control the first half.
Saints ‘keeper Vaclav Hladky then made a handful of first half saves to restrict Motherwell to the solitary goal and keep alive Saints’ hopes of taking something from the game.
However, after Saints grabbed an equaliser five minutes into the second half, the Fir Park men lost their grip on the game. And just when it looked like they were going to drop two points, Iklay Durmas smashed home the winner four minutes from time to leave ‘Well empty handed.
Not surprisingly Stephen Robinson went with the side available to him which did extremely well against Accies on Saturday, especially when they were reduced to 10 men following Christopher Long’s dismissal. His red card forced the solitary change, with Jermaine Hylton taking his place playing in a more central role alongside Tony Watt.
What was a pleasant surprise was the inclusion of shirt number 7, with David Turnbull’s return to full fitness meriting him a place on the home bench.
Within two minutes Hylton had stretched the visitors’ defence but having escaped Conor McCarthy on the halfway line, the Saints defender managed to recover blocking Hylton at the edge of the box.
Four minutes later a quick break towards the Saints goal, Allan Campbell fed in the overlapping Rolando Aarons but blasted the ball high into the away fans behind Hladky’s goal.
The on-loan Newcastle United winger made amends in the 12th minute. A quick exchange with Hylton on the halfway line sent Aarons racing towards the Saints box where he was tripped by Akin Famewo, with referee David Munro immediately pointing to the penalty spot.
Despite missing ‘Well’s first in last week’s penalty shoot-out, Liam Donnelly confidently stepped up to slam the ball high into the corner of the net to open the scoring.
Five minutes later it could have been 2-0. Aarons, supplying all the dead balls from the right, found Declan Gallagher and his downward header forced a good save from Hladky. The Saints ‘keeper then reacted smartly to deny Watt who had latched onto the rebound six yards from goal.
The home defence comfortably dealt with a couple of Saints chances before ‘Well almost scored on the break from one of them. Aaron’s cleared the flag kick out to Watt who superbly carried the ball 80 yards into Hladky’s area before his angled drive was palmed round the post by the ‘keeper.
From then until the half-time whistle a series of corner and free kicks pinned Saints into their own area, but Hladky stood firm to block Hylton’s low drive before clutching Aaron’s curling free kick under his cross bar.
Although they failed to turn their first half dominance into more goals, it was a much improved scoreline this week, as the Fir Park fans looked forward to the second half.
Conversely, Saints entered the second 45 knowing they were still in the game and within five minutes the Paisley men were level.
Lee Hodson cut in from the right to fire a low ball into the six-yard box. Campbell, standing in front of Mark Gillespie failed to clear the ball leaving Jon Obika to flick the ball high into the net and make it 1-1.
It might have been worse for the Steelmen three minutes later when Gillespie, with his first real save of the match was at full stretch to push a 20 yard drive from Durmus round his right hand post.
Motherwell looked out of sorts and even the introduction of Ross MacIver for the injured Mark O’Hara after 55 failed to have any affect.
In a bid to find that spark and a winner, Turnbull was given a heroes welcome and 20 minutes to exert his influence on the game.
Eight minutes from time it almost happened when the midfielder’s cross picked out Watt but from eight yard his header was straight at the ‘keeper.
Watt then worked a clever one-two with MacIver but as the ball rolled across the box the former Celtic striker couldn’t turn and get his shot on goal.
Just as ‘Well looked the more dangerous the Buddies hit them with a sucker punch. From a quick break down the right the ball was centred into the box and laid back for Durmus to smash it high past Gillespie to give Saints a much needed three points.
However it left ‘Well fans once again dumfounded by their side’s home form and an inability to hold on to a winning position.