Kris Boyd’s 21st goal of the season gave Kilmarnock’s European hopes a boost in a hard-fought 2-1 win over Hamilton at the Superseal Stadium.
After a goalless first half, Kirk Broadfoot headed the visitors in front before Hamilton substitute David Templeton levelled up.
But veteran striker Boyd had the final say when he finished off a flowing move to stretch Kilmarnock’s unbeaten run to 11 games and move them to four points behind fourth-placed Hibernian heading into the post-split games.
Hamilton remain ninth, five points clear of bottom-placed Partick Thistle and facing another battle to avoid the drop.
It was a bruising encounter in the early stages. The visitors had the first sight of goal but Boyd dragged a shot wide.
Kilmarnock were forced into an early change when Alan Power replaced Rory McKenzie who had picked up a knock.
Steve Clarke’s men started to take control with Youssouf Mulumbu at the centre of things. Boyd appealed for referee Barry Cook to show Xavier Tomas a second yellow after the striker tripped over the Accies defender - who had slipped himself - en route to goal but the official rejected the suggestion.
Accies nearly scored with their first effort of the game after 41 minutes when Darian MacKinnon thundered a shot off the bar from 20 yards.
That galvanised the hosts as they searched for an opener and Rakish Bingham and Lewis Ferguson brought out good saves from Leo Fasan - who was making his league start in place of the injured Jamie MacDonald.
Jordan Jones was fairly quiet in the first half but looked to have the spark that could ignite Kilmarnock in the second and he did just that. After a couple of efforts on goal he won a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Gary Dicker swung in the ball and Broadfoot powered a header beyond Woods from six yards.
Hamilton boss Martin Canning sensed the tide was turning and made a double substitution with Georgios Sarris being replaced by Antonio Rojano and Templeton replacing Ali Crawford.
It proved to be a masterstroke as Templeton notched his eighth goal of the season from a free-kick after 73 minutes, when his effort went in via the post.
Kilmarnock’s response was swift as they restored their lead when Boyd finished off Aaron Simpson’s cross after 79 minutes following good build-up play.