Aberdeen eased to victory at St Mirren to move level on points with Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic.

Johnny Hayes' sweetly struck shot put the Dons ahead and Niall McGinn's seventh goal in as many league games doubled the lead before the break.

Strikes by Chris Clark and Mark Reynolds extended the visitors' advantage as St Mirren toiled.

Steven Thompson pulled a late goal back for the struggling home side who sustained a fifth straight SPL defeat.

Craig Brown's side join Celtic and Hibernian on 21 points, with the latter two sides playing on Sunday, while St Mirren remain second-bottom.

The Paisley side, missing suspended captain Jim Goodwin, were first to threaten with Gary Teale escaping his man and crossing for Sam Parkin to head just over.

Aberdeen then broke the deadlock with their first attack. Hayes' chipped cross from the edge of the box was cleared straight back to the winger and he buried a half-volley past Craig Samson.

The Buddies almost levelled straight away. Teale's free-kick from the right was met powerfully by stand-in skipper Thompson and goalkeeper Jamie Langfield reacted well to punch the header onto the crossbar.

The same combination - Teale and Thompson - gave the visitors further concern moments later as the big striker glanced a header wide from another telling delivery.

A controlled, angled shot on the run by Josh Magennis was beaten away by Samson but, after enduring more St Mirren pressure, Aberdeen did find the net via a swift counter-attack.

The offside flag stayed down as McGinn received Ryan Fraser's pass and the in-form forward emphatically beat Samson from near the six-yard line.

A defensive mix-up early in the second half gave the Dons the chance for a third as McGinn robbed Marc McAusland and set up Fraser, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Samson.

And, after the resulting corner was cleared, Hayes tested the goalkeeper with a chip.

The home fans claimed in-vain for a penalty after Imrie went to ground in the box following Clark's challenge.

Fraser limped off to be replaced by Scott Vernon following a heavy challenge by McAusland, an incident which provoked a disgruntled reaction from Dons captain Russell Anderson.

St Mirren's chances of staging a comeback all but evaporated when Langfield saved David Van Zanten's terrific strike.

And a break involving McGinn and Vernon opened up the space for Clark to beat Samson with the aid of a slight deflection.

Reynolds soon netted the fourth after moving forward from defence and unleashing a shot from 20 yards.

Danny Lennon's men did register before full-time, Thompson tucking the ball past Langfield at the keeper's near post.

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