Motherwell can claim a place in the semi-finals of the Betfred Cup on Thursday evening. Aberdeen will be the visitors to Fir Park and will be favourites to progress but it would take a brave man to bet against the Lanarkshire club on this form.
This was an eighth win from 10 games in the current campaign and the confidence which flowed through the team, particularly in the second half, will be carried into that cup tie.
It was a display guaranteed to warm the heart of any manager and Stephen Robinson adopted a scattergun approach to dispensing praise to his players afterwards.
“I thought we dominated the whole game if I’m being honest,” he said. “Our decision-making in the first half wasn’t as good, though. I was trying to get them to be a little more patient and make that extra pass because we were hitting too many diagonal balls.
“But we corrected that at half-time and our substitutes made a big impact.
“We had so much possession but we needed a little more quality to dictate the game and fair play to my players – there was no question about their commitment or their desire.
“They were winning all the second balls but we added quality to that in the second half.
“It’s not me who makes the difference during games, it’s the players who come on. What we have is a squad that I can turn round and do something different with.
“Last season I felt our team picked itself at times, which isn’t healthy. You need competition to keep people on top of their game.”
Motherwell came close in the sixth minute when Louis Moult swung in a cross from the right which Ryan Bowman dived to connect with, only to send his header from six yards wide of the far post.
At the other end the hosts were in Trevor Carson’s debt as the goalkeeper displayed alertness to keep out Eamonn Brophy’s low drive from a Dom Thomas cutback.
Cedric Kipre collected the first caution of the afternoon for what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate challenge on Greg Taylor, before Kilmarnock struck the bar nine minutes from the interval when Gordon Greer’s looping header from Thomas’s corner rebounded off the woodwork.
The game became much scrappier as the first half petered out, summed up perfectly by Moult’s shanked shot from 15 yards which almost went out for a throw-in.
It was a different story after the break. Motherwell were revitalised and Moult, in particular, looked more like the predator who had been linked with summer moves to Aberdeen and Rangers.
Jamie MacDonald produced two outstanding saves to deny him and he was also desperately close with an angled volley from Richard Tait’s delivery which shaved the outside of the far post.
The visitors simply weren’t at the races in the second half and, when the opening goal arrived, it was no more than the home side deserved.
Gael Bigirimana was the architect with a perfectly-weighted through ball which Bowman took in his stride, lashing a shot into the roof of the net from 15 yards out.
That slender advantage would have been enough to see off a punchless Killie side but Moult made sure two minutes from time.
Bowman would certainly have stabbed home Chris Cadden’s cross from point-blank range had Iain Wilson not sent him crashing to the ground.
Referee Bobby Madden had no hesitation in awarding a penalty kick and Moult confidently stuck it away to secure the points.
Kilmarnock manager Lee McCulloch is struggling with a back problem but his side’s performance added insult to injury.
“Motherwell probably deserved the three points and we didn’t,” he said. “The second-half performance really wasn’t good enough.”