John Sutton sent Saints storming into the semi-finals of the Irn Bru Cup with a fantastic late double to finally bring some joy to the suffering supporters.
Bottom of the Championship and without a league win since April, St Mirren had to do it the hard way by recovering from going a goal behind.
However, they deserved their victory and manager Jack Ross, celebrating his first win since taking over from Alex Rae, hopes it can be a platform to build upon
Ross said: “Hopefully it’s the start of some momentum for us. It was two good finishes from John but he has made a career doing that. We know what we will get from him and what we won’t.
“Going behind again – given the way the season has gone for them – the players had to show character to turn it around and they showed that in abundance and finished the game strongly.
“It was very quiet in the dressing room and I was just trying to emphasise to them to enjoy it.
“It’s probably indicative of the way things have gone this season but you’ve got to have a smile on your face when you win a game of football.”
St Mirren, for whom Stevie Mallan and youngsters Kyle Magennis and Kyle McAllister were excellent, dominated for long spells of the game without seriously penetrating.
They tested Greg Fleming as early as the third minute although the Ayr keeper saved David Clarkson’s shot with relative comfort after John Sutton had knocked down Jack Baird’s pass.
Fleming, however, had to rely on his positional sense in 27 minutes when McAllister’s powerful left-foot shot crashed off his chest after Ayr had failed to properly clear Stevie Mallan’s corner.
Mallan offered that little bit of extra quality in the middle of the park and it was unfortunate for Saints that his surging run in 24 minutes did not result in a goal.
Mallan took possession in his own half, easing past two challenges, and burst into Ayr territory and suddenly Ian McCall’s side were exposed.
He played a clever one-two with Lewis Morgan then set up Sutton who hit his shot early but Fleming scrambled to his right to push the ball away from the danger area.
Ayr’s only real chance came in 37 minutes when Craig McGuffie ran at them and he slipped a great ball into Alan Forrest but the Somerset star aimed his shot too close to Scott Gallagher who saved well with his feet.
The introduction of Andy O’Connell in 59 minutes proved telling as he gave Ayr a shock lead nine minutes later when he followed up after Daryll Meggatt’s shot had been blocked by
However, Saints came storming back and Sutton became their match-winning hero.
With seven minutes remaining, he took a precision pass from Mallan to fire a left-foot volley into the right corner.
Then in 85 minutes he was in the perfect place to convert Magennis’s cutback to deservedly send Saints into the last four.
Ayr manager McCall said: “I’m just gutted for all the players and the fans. We were so in control after we scored and looked like the team who might get a second on the counter.”