St. Mirren boss Stephen Robinson revived their top-six hopes by winning the first Sinch Premiership after Motherwell Boxing Day after losing 4-2 on the way back to Fir Park.
Connor Shields scored a double as Wells climbed to fifth on the table from behind and tripped before splitting at Livingston.
Former Motherwell manager Robinson has now lost six of the seven games the Bodies have in charge and their top-six hopes could be dashed before the Rangers host next Sunday. They dropped to tenth and are now just six points above St. Johnstone.
Both sides really needed a win to start their ailing top-six ambitions and the first half was full of sloping defense.
Emon Bruffy turned the game around with two goals from Shawn Goss and Shields in one minute. Connor McCarthy equalized before Dean Cornelius regained the lead for Motherwell in the 45th minute.
The Shields won the toss and elected to field in the 78th minute.
Motherwell manager Graham Alexander brought Calam Slaterry and Goss back into his midfield and Stephen O’Donnell returned from a left-back to a 4-3-3 formation. St. Mirren Jordan Jones returned from injury but missed Greg Kilti.
The last time Jack Alnwick was sent off for a goal by the Saints after a red card, he was scared at first after being removed by Dean Lines and Van Vine, but Goss saw his efforts blocked.
The opener came in the 14th minute when St. Mirren broke the left. Sandre Solhom and O’Donnell got into a scuffle when they tried to deal with Connor Ronan’s cross and Brophy Sloted Home.
Motherwell was level after six minutes giving simple rice dividends. Shields ran a throw-in from the right wing and returned the ball to Goss to sweep a home shot that didn’t hit particularly well but could not keep the line out.
The hosts were soon ahead when Joe Shagnesi was caught out in the van’s header. Shield sprint and great finish over the goalkeeper.
Possibilities keep coming. Braffy turns Ricky Lamy but hits inside the post and saves the line from O’Donnell after a few more loose defenses.
The Saints equalized in the 36th minute when Liam Kelly caught under Jones’ inswinging corner and McCarthy knocked the ball to the far post. The Motherwell goalkeeper claimed he was interrupted by Bruffy but there was little in the way.
Kelly defends Marcus Fraser shortly before Motherwell returns to the front. Joe Efford pulled the ball back from near the corner flag and Cornelius picked up his place from 16 yards.
The gap did little to calm things down. Within a minute of the restart, Jones was set into space, and Solhome was cleared, and the line soon made a great save to push Slaterie’s powerful long-range volley into the bar. Efford failed to make the most of the rebound.
Braffy and Henderson threatened to equalize but Motherwell found some decent control of the game and Van Vine scored a goal from nothing after collecting the ball to the left near the halfway line.
Dutchman Fraser hit the nutmeg, was charged in the box, haunted McCarthy, and delivered a cutback that Shields eventually dropped.
Van Vine missed a glorious chance in the final minute but it did nothing to dampen the long-awaited three-point celebration for home fans.
What managers say …
Motherwell boss Graham Alexander: “I am really proud of them because we all know that we have had to sit back and criticize because of our results and we have not really been able to fight against it.
“But as a team we have shown what it is. We passed the ball brilliantly, went ahead and worked hard for each other. “
Alexander recuperated from the stress he felt after losing his last breath to St. Johnstone, which was exacerbated by the fact that he was confined to the house by Covid.
“I’ve been in it for 34 years, don’t worry about it,” he said.
“Honestly, it’s like living in Scotland, it rains sometimes, you still want to stay here and work here. It’s like football, a great game, I like the job. Sometimes it rains and you have to carry your umbrella on top. Sometimes it gets wet without getting an umbrella.
“Listen, it’s life, it’s not a problem. How can we say that some of it is not sure? We didn’t win 11 matches.
“But I knew we were better than our results. I knew the margins of many games were very, very tight. I didn’t think anyone outscored us.
“Sometimes you just have to keep your advice, work hard and trust your players. I believe in this group of players, even if we didn’t win today, I would love to work with them.
“They work honestly and exceptionally hard, but we’re not all human and perfect.”
St. Mirren Boss Stephen Robinson: “Going forward we were fine sometimes and the three in front created a lot of problems and created opportunities, we passed the ball well, but defensively we were really weak.
“(The first) three goals, they literally delivered them. Four goals were miserable.
“I believe we are in a relegation scrap. I believe it didn’t come out a few weeks ago, but I truly believe we need results very quickly.
“We have players who are good enough but unfortunately the players have lost their minds and the players may be somewhere else.
“It’s up to me to try to find a way to make sure we’re set for next season and then I can put my own stamp on it and bring in the players I need to upgrade the squad.”
Motherwell travels to Livingston on April 9 (3pm), where St. Mirren hosts the Champion Rangers on April 10, the game starts live at 12 noon Sky Sports Football.