A dramatic late strike from substitute Kyle Magennis earned a precious (and largely undeserved) point for St Mirren and increased the possibility that they may yet avoid a play-off battle later this month.
It came as a blessed relief for manager Oran Kearney, who had seen his team outmanoeuvred for the bulk of the contest only to come up with a potentially life-saving goal at the last possible moment.
Even then, it came from an error of judgement on the part of Motherwell winger Elliott Frear. Immediately beforehand, in a classic counter-attack, the home attackers outnumbered the visiting defenders and a goal looked certain.
However, rather than play in Chris Cadden or James Scott, both of whom seemed certain to score, he tried a shot himself, one which lacked power and accuracy and was immediately recycled, leading to Magennis’ goal, a fierce drive which came from Mihai Popescu’s long throw.
“If we beat Hamilton and Dundee in our last two games then Hamilton must win on the last day,” said Kearney. “If Hamilton hadn’t scored [at Dundee], a draw would have done it so Kyle’s goal could have a slight impact.
“There was a stonewall penalty on Danny Mullen. The referee [Alan Muir] was standing close to it. Even at their goal, I feel there was a foul on Gary MacKenzie by the young striker. There’s a pull of the shirt and he leans over him - that looks a foul, too.
“These are the decisions that need to go for you. I don’t think the defender saw Danny coming. Probably on days like this, when its 0-0, those are pivotal moments.”
Given the importance of the outcome to their prospects of survival, it was surprising to note the lack of urgency in the visitors’ early efforts; indeed, they could easily have been two behind before the last of the spectators took their seats.
That they remained on level terms was largely down to the reactions of Czech goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky, who made fine stops from Allan Campbell and Scott, and the alertness of full-back Mateo Muzek, who cleared Gboly Ariyibi’s netbound drive off the line.
Aside from dealing comfortably with a few shots from distance, Motherwell’s Mark Gillespie was virtually a spectator. He and his team-mates had little to worry about other than the possibility of not finishing seventh; for Saints, the possibility of an immediate return to the second tier remains and, on this occasion, it appeared to inhibit them to the extent that even simple, short passes seemed to be beyond them.
Hladky saved again from Scott after the break before David Turnbull fired the hosts in front with an emphatic finish after MacKenzie had nodded Cadden’s cross into his path.
That it didn’t bring three points was a source of great frustration to manager Stephen Robinson.
“We totally dominated the whole game,” he said. “We played in front of them first half but got more in behind them after the break.
“But we should be clever enough to see the game out. We had a 4 v 2 with 30 seconds left, made a poor decision and then didn’t defend a long throw.”