LAST season Hamilton lost manager Alex Neil, their two leading goalscorers, and their mojo during the January transfer window.
Their subsequent slump cost them a top-six place and led to bookmakers installing them as ante-post favourites for relegation.
Yet the Lanarkshire club continue to confound their critics and this latest victory, all the sweeter for having been done the hard way, lifted them to fourth place in the table, just three points behind Hearts.
“We deserved the win,” said Accies manager Martin Canning. “We weren’t really properly at it during the first half but we were excellent for the remainder of the match.
“The players were told at half-time that their performance just wasn’t good enough and they responded well, which was really pleasing.
“We could have had a few more goals towards the end, but poor decision-making cost us.”
Both sides deployed positive formations and, consequently, both defences found themselves exposed at times during an entertaining first half.
Ali Crawford tested Jamie MacDonald, recovered from the injury which saw him miss the midweek defeat by Hearts, with a 20-yarder while, at the other end, Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern sprinted from his line to throw himself in front of Greg Kiltie as he was about to pull the trigger.
The 18-year-old saw another netbound effort deflected to safety by Jesus Garcia Tena before he finally fired the hosts in front.
Kallum Higginbotham, revelling in a more central midfield role, was the architect with a perfectly-weighted pass for Kiltie, who produced a composed finish, placing the ball inside McGovern’s left-hand post from 12 yards.
However, Tope Obadeyi missed a good chance to make it 2-0 immediately before the break and Killie paid the price.
Crawford’s long ball found the run of Dougie Imrie and the winger’s left-footed half-volley from 20 yards swerved over MacDonald and smacked the underside of the crossbar before crossing the line for 1-1.
It signalled a sea-change in proceedings. Substitute Christian Nade drove wide when he should have scored, before Crawford finished a move he had begun himself by forcing home Greg Docherty’s cutback from the edge of the six-yard box.
Kilmarnock replied with a series of inviting deliveries into the box but Accies survived the waves of attack and came close to adding a third when Ziggy Gordon’s header was nodded off the line by Craig Slater.
Former Hearts midfielder Scott Robinson came on for Jamie Hamill in the second period but limped off just nine minutes later with a hamstring problem. The hosts’ misery was compounded in added time when Lee Ashcroft, already cautioned for a foul on Imrie, collected a straight red card for a last-man foul on the same player.
“We should have been home and dry by half-time,” said home manager Gary Locke. “We created enough chances to have been two or three up by then.”