KILMARNOCK have now failed to collect so much as a solitary point from the six games since Gary Locke was confirmed as their manager and this latest defeat has ramped up the pressure on the Ayrshire club.
Scorers: Kilmarnock - Ashcroft (8’), Kiltie (78’); Hamilton - Scotland (24’), MacKinnon (65’), Hasselbaink (70’)
They are now only six points in front of second-bottom Motherwell and a seventh successive defeat at Fir Park on Friday could see that gap slashed to three with two games remaining.
“That game is massive now because of the run we have been on,” said Kilmarnock manager Gary Locke. “We are making life really difficult for ourselves.
“I would still rather be in our position, but we have to make sure we dig out a result. We don’t want to get dragged into the mess at the bottom. It was a case of self-inflicted wounds yet again.”
And yet they had got off to the perfect start. Alexei Eremenko’s inswinging corner was just begging to be buried and centre-back Lee Ashcroft obliged, heading home from point-blank range while the Accies defenders were rooted to the spot.
Their lead did not last long. Goalkeeper Craig Samson has become a scapegoat for the home support during their poor recent run and his popularity plummeted further when he gifted Accies an equaliser.
A long-range shot from Louis Longridge should have posed few problems for the veteran but he pushed the ball into the path of the inrushing Jason Scotland, who made no mistake from 12 yards.
Josh Magennis was then guilty of as glaring an error at the other end, when he shot directly at Michael McGovern after Rory McKenzie’s slide-rule pass had left him one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Darian MacKinnon fired Accies in front from 20 yards after a clearance from Manuel Pascali had fallen kindly for him and Samson was found wanting again when he was slow to come for a cross from Ali Crawford, allowing substitute Nigel Hasselbaink to reach the ball first and score with his first touch.
Teenage midfielder Greg Kiltie claimed his first senior goal with a crisp drive from eight yards following a goalmouth scramble but Hamilton held on to record back-to-back wins for the first time in four months.
Both sides should have finished with ten men. Ashcroft threw a punch at Hasselbaink, who retaliated with a headbutt. Astonishingly, or perhaps not, referee Steven McLean decided yellow cards represented a suitable punishment.
Ashcroft declined to discuss the incident afterwards and Hasselbaink left immediately after the final whistle to catch a flight. There are some who would cheerfully buy McLean a one-way ticket as well.
“That was eventful but we probably deserved the win,” said Accies manager Martin Canning. “I’d like to have seen us see it out comfortably once it got to 3-1 but we’ve lost two goals from set-pieces, which is obviously disappointing.
“As for the incident at the end, I thought, first of all, that Nigel had been fouled. After that the fourth official stood in front of me and I couldn’t see what happened but it wasn’t discussed in the dressing room. It’s a great feeling to get back-to-back victories but I’m more pleased for the boys.
“They came from behind today, which showed character. Nigel came on and made an immediate impact and it’s always pleasing when your substitutes can do that.”
Kilmarnock: Samson; O’Hara, Ashcroft, Pascali, Barbour; McKenzie, Clingan, Slater, Johnston (Kiltie 62); Eremenko; Magennis. Subs not used: Brennan, Hamill, Miller, Cairney, Eccleston, Syme.
Hamilton: McGovern; Lyon, Devlin, Tena, MacDonald; Gillespie; Imrie, MacKinnon, Crawford, Longridge; Scotland (Hasselbaink 68). Subs not used: Hill, Hendrie, Watson, Brophy, Docherty, Lucas.
Referee: S McLean. Attendance: 3,450