Oli Shaw’s winner nine minutes from time overcame another test of their title credentials. A refusal to crumble and a battling performance sent the supporters home relieved, pleased and still first in the league.
Queen of the South had held out and then equalised, for that moment knocking Killie off the top of the table with rivals Arbroath ahead against Ayr at Gayfield. But the growing tension was released by Shaw’s late goal, his 13th of the season, and again at the final whistle.
“Leaving it as late as we did makes it a wee bit more special and on a personal level it’s good to get the goal,” explained the striker, “although in a team performance we could have had the game dead and buried, I’m happy to be top of the league.”
He later handed out his match-winning jersey to a young fan to round the day off with more smiles.
“I saw a wee boy with my sign earlier in the game so went over, signed the strip and gave it to him. Hopefully he’s away happy.
“I scored the goal to make the fans’ day with three points and then to make the wee boy’s day as well, it was special.”
It wasn’t a particularly special performance, though Ash Taylor’s opening goal was for the centre-half, but it was the type of resilient result which will grow in significance as the final six-game stretch of the promotion race carries on.
What really will make the fans’ day is returning to the Premiership. Arbroath remain right on their heels, ready to pounce if – and like Saturday, when – they stumble. Kilmarnock did it themselves though, regaining composure after Ali Roy’s equaliser and regaining their league position through Shaw’s late winner.
It was a sign of their mettle and title credentials. Arbroath are not going away, but with play-off contenders and promotion outsiders Partick Thistle coming next Killie’s fate is still very much in their own hands – as is Queen’s.
The ninth-placed visitors face Hamilton at the weekend with the bonus of an SPFL Trust Trophy final against Raith Rovers a week later, but priority must be on playing for their league lives, without being distracted by the cup says Josh Rae.
If there were positive signs for Kilmarnock, Queen’s are also taking heart from pushing the league leaders so close.
“If we play against Hamilton this weekend the way we did in the second-half against Kilmarnock then we will feel confident that we can beat them,” the goalkeeper said. “We are all confident. We are all good players. It is just stupid little blips that are costing us every week.
“We just need to start getting some wins.
“The main thing for us is to stay in the league. We need to focus on the league and the SPFL Trust Trophy final will take care of itself when it comes.”