Jordan Preston’s double helped put Ayr United firmly in the promotion driving seat after an impressive show of firepower in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Peterhead.
The Honest Men will now feel confident of completing the job in the return match at Somerset Park on Saturday.
For Jim McInally’s hosts it was a repeat nightmare after a 4-0 thumping by Ayr in the league back on 23 April.
Ayr broke the deadlock in the 18th minute with a powerful low drive from the edge of the area by Michael Donald. Home keeper Graeme Smith got his hand to the ball but was unable to prevent it from going in.
The away side almost doubled their lead when Robbie Crawford’s 12 yard-shot struck the post.
The Blue Toon got back on level terms in the 34th minute after a mix-up in the away defence, as Leighton McIntosh flicked the ball into the net, despite the best efforts of Andrew Graham on the goal-line.
But United struck again in the 40th minute when Steven Docherty whipped in a free-kick to the back post and Preston lashed a powerful shot in off the upright.
The Ayr forward doubled his tally on the hour mark with a stunning strike. Preston controlled the ball on the left, cut inside and rifled a blistering shot from 22 yards into the top corner of the net.
Ayr came close to scoring again when Preston played a pass inside to Ross McCrorie, but Smith was well placed to make a good save from the midfielder’s shot.
However, Ayr wrapped up the win in the 74th minute thanks to a composed finish from Crawford, leaving the Blue Toon’s Championship hopes looking forlorn.