IT wasn’t a thing of beauty, but it was never likely to be with the stakes so high for both clubs.
A second-half goal from Carlton Morris was enough to give Hamilton only their second win in 17 games and lift them up to ninth place, four points clear of Kilmarnock, who are left languishing in the relegation play-off berth.
Gary Locke’s side had a lot to prove, not just to themselves, but to the bewildered Killie support, who saw them thrashed and humiliated at Tannadice the previous week.
Yesterday’s home reversal has now left them with just three league wins at home in their last 13 outings and facing a winter of discontent.
Delighted Hamilton player-coach Martin Canning said: “The result was the most important thing. I was delighted with the effort and the attitude. Performance-wise we played well and with a little bit more composure we could have made it more comfortable for ourselves.
“Celtic Park [where Hamilton lost 8-1] was a disappointing night for everybody, but the response and the attitude of the boys has been great, especially to keep two clean sheets and get a win. I thought the back three were excellent which gave us the platform to go on and win the game. We are competing. It was always going to be a hard season.”
Kilmarnock showed a much more positive outlook and almost edged in front after five minutes when Kris Boyd’s clever reverse pass found Kevin McHattie, but he hooked the ball wide of the far post from 15 yards.
The nervous tension shown by both teams prevented little constructive football in a desperate first period, with passes going astray and invention at a premium.
Accies should have gone in front in 17 minutes when Morris managed to put Ali Crawford in the clear, but his clip to the far corner of the net was superbly turned round by goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald – though he was not given the credit for the save by referee Stephen Finnie who awarded a goal kick, a call that enraged the Hamilton striker.
Controversy blew up in the 57th minute when Boyd appeared to be barged to the ground by Mickey Devlin as he looked set to nod in a Josh Magennis cross from the left. The Kilmarnock players were incandescent with rage when Finnie failed to award a penalty.
Killie gradually started to assert themselves and in 64 minutes Boyd crashed a 20-yard free-kick off the top of the crossbar. Then, right out of the blue, Accies got the vital breakthrough in 71 minutes after Anton Kurakins forced a corner on the left.
Crawford curled the ball over and Morris rose to bullet a header on goal which deflected off the head of Killie defender Conrad Balatoni. It was too powerful for goalkeeper MacDonald, who could only palm the ball high into the net.
“It was definitely my goal,” said Morris. “But it’s more about the result than the goal, it was a must-win game.
“We have shown against Hearts and today what we are capable of. Hopefully my goal will prove pretty big but, with the quality of the squad we have, hopefully we can keep this run going.”
Three minutes from the end Accies should have doubled their lead when substitute Alex D’Acol set up Dougie Imrie, but he scooped the ball over from 12 yards.
Killie boss Locke said: “I’m disappointed to lose the game, I didn’t think either team deserved to win.
“It looked that we should have had a penalty. The first goal was always going to be important and if we had got the penalty and went 1-0 in front it could have been different for us.
“I would rather I get stick from the fans than the players as there are one or two of them lacking confidence at the minute.
“The only way to get through that is to dig in and work hard and that’s what we have to do. Early on when they got the ball they looked nervous. The only way we can get through this is to stick together as a team.”