A fine, controlled team performance saw on-form Motherwell record their third consecutive win since the league split.
Goals from Devante Cole and Stephen O’Donnell at the beginning and end of the second half earned the Steelmen a fully deserved three points, which elevated them to seventh place in the league and enhance their claim to be top of the bottom six.
Kilmarnock created a couple of chances after falling behind but otherwise the Ayrshire men were largely second best as their relegation worries deepened.
Both clubs entered this game having to pick themselves off the canvas after the trauma of crashing out of the Scottish Cup on penalties last weekend.
In Kilmarnock’s case they also needed an immediate response to keep their escape from relegation on track.
Conversely, Graham Alexander’s men, now safe from relegation, were motivated by avenging the heavy defeat inflicted on them at Rugby Park five weeks ago.
The ‘Well boss made three changes from the side which lost the penalty shootout at Easter Road last Saturday. Jake Hastie, Steven Lawless and Sam Foley, for his first start, came into a revamped midfield.
The Steelmen were aiming to make it five league wins from their last six games, an impressive record that earned Alexander the league’s Manager of the Month award for April.
Motherwell looked determined to continue that winning run pressing the Rugby Park men deep into their own half from the start.
Within three minutes Christopher Long tried his luck with a powerful drive from wide on the left but Danny Rogers was untroubled as the ball raced into his goal’s side netting.
The next move was better constructed and deserved a goal. After a swift five-man move which started with Stephen O’Donnell on the right, his opposite number Nathan McGinley whipped in a cross which Haste nodded over the bar from around six yards.
Another fine passing move followed only for Long to be adjudged offside as he was about to pull the trigger from 10 yards.
Hastie, working hard on the right flank, earned a corner which was only cleared as far as Foley but from 25 yards he sliced his shot wide of goal.
As the torrential downpour watered the manicured pitch and made the cries of players and coaches inaudible, Killie finally made their presence felt around Liam Kelly’s goal.
After 35 minutes Ricki Lamie conceded a free-kick to the right of the penalty area and the ‘Well ‘keeper made the first save of the game, comfortably holding Alan Power’s rather tame effort on goal.
As half-time approached ‘Well regained the majority of possession but despite carefully working the ball towards the visitor’s box the final pass lacked conviction and the precision
Although the rain had stopped at the interval the pitch was left greasy.
Within two minutes ‘Well were equally slick as they opened the scoring.
Foley fed a low pass to Cole who slipped the ball in front of Long at the edge of the area. And although he slipped as he dragged the ball into the box, Cole latched onto the loose ball and curl in beyond Rogers to bag his 11th goal of the season.
Long, lying deeper was involved in the next couple of moves setting O’Donnell down the right before taking a pass from Cole and setting up Hastie at the corner of the box.
As Killie pressed forward in pursuit of an equaliser it almost came in the 56th minute.
It would have been a fluke, though, when Lafferty’s harmless drive from 20 yards clipped Gallagher to send the ball spinning within a metre of Kelly’s left-hand post.
With relegation results elsewhere going against his men, Tommy Wright made a triple substitution on the hour mark.
And almost immediately they carved out an opening. Declan Gallagher could only nod Chris Burke’s cross towards Lafferty and his thumping volley from 12 yards forced Kelly into a fine acrobatic save diving to his right to punch the ball away.
With Motherwell hoping to catch the committed Killie on the break, Burke came close to grabbing the equaliser when from 25 yards his measured shot clipped the top of Kelly’s crossbar.
As the crosses into the box mounted, Bevis Mugabi and Barry Maguire came on to bolster the home defence.
However, with five minutes remaining, ‘Well’s defence turned into attack as the Fir Park doubled their advantage.
Cole did well to wriggle away from a couple of defenders at the corner of the box. When he toe-poked the ball across the visitor’s penalty area it found O’Donnell racing in to drive the ball low and hard beyond the exposed ‘keeper and wrap up another three points.
Motherwell: Kelly, O’Donnell, Gallagher, Lamie, McGinley, Campbell, Foley, Lawless, Hastie, Cole, Long.
Subs: Chapman, Dunne, Mugabi, Magloire, Carroll, Crawford, Maguire, Cornelius, Watt.