St Mirren secured their fifth Scottish Premier League win of the season to move eight points clear of bottom-placed Dundee.
Steven Thompson's first-half double gave them a two-goal cushion going into the break.
Substitute Bob McHugh gave Motherwell hope by scoring in off the bar 15 minutes before time.
But Danny Lennon's team held on to come out on top in a pulsating match at St Mirren Park.
The game began at a frenetic pace, with both teams fizzing the ball around on a lush, greasy surface that held up well despite a recent deluge of rain.
It was the visitors, though, who looked more comfortable in possession in the opening stages.
Little surprise, then, when winger Chris Humphrey created the first opportunity to score after 10 minutes.
His piercing run into the box dazed two St Mirren defenders, but his shot at goal from 12 yards was deflected for a corner.
With the game swinging from end to end, it wasn't long before the Saints came close to scoring.
John McGinn's left-footed corner evaded everyone and dropped to the back post. Jim Goodwin slid the ball goalwards, but Keith Lasley cleared off the line.
Moments later, Motherwell were denied a lead by the woodwork. Nicky Law's drifting cross was met by Michael Higdon, whose goal-bound shot was tipped on to the post by Craig Samson.
The visitors grew in confidence from their near miss and dominated territory and possession as the interval drew near.
So it was somewhat against the run of play when St Mirren went in front - and what a lovely team goal it was.
Marc McAusland fed Jon Robertson down the right hand side and his centre found Thompson, who directed a well-placed shot from eight yards beyond Darren Randolph.
With the home fans still marvelling at the striker's festive gift, he gave them further reason to cheer just three minutes later.
Gary Teale's deep cross from the right looked like it was drifting out of play, but Thompson leapt high above his marker to nod back across goal and into the net.
St Mirren looked to stretch their lead after the half-time break.
McGinn, who was outstanding all night for Lennon's side, should have made it 3-0 when he got on the end of Lewis Guy's cut-back, but his side-foot effort was wonderfully kept out by Randolph.
Motherwell, trying to salvage something from the match, began to commit more players forward and, with 15 minutes to go, their efforts were rewarded.
Henrik Ojamaa was released down the left and his low cross was hammered into the net via the crossbar by McHugh.
By this stage, the ball hardly left St Mirren's third of the pitch, with Well relentless in their pursuit of an equaliser.
An almighty goalmouth scramble in the 81st minute seemed destined to provide a second goal for Stuart McCall's team, but some brave goalkeeping from Samson and committed blocks by the Saints backline ensured the home side's lead remained intact.
McAusland's header four minutes before time should have extended his St Mirren's lead, but for all Motherwell's late domination, St Mirren held on to provide their supporters with the perfect early Christmas present.
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.90:00 +3:50
The referee penalises John McGinn for handball. Nicky Law delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, Craig Samson makes a save.90:00 +3:31
Lewis Guy is caught offside. Darren Randolph takes the indirect free kick.90:00 +2:24
Foul by Marc McAusland on Robert McHugh, free kick awarded. Nicky Law takes the free kick.90:00 +1:23
Omar Daley delivers the ball.90:00 +0:37
The ball is swung over by Omar Daley, save by Craig Samson.89:54
Robert McHugh takes a shot from deep inside the box clearing the bar.89:29
Omar Daley takes a shot. Blocked by Jon Robertson.87:30 Substitution
Substitution Graham Carey is brought on as a substitute for David Barron.87:30
Nicky Law takes a corner.87:15
Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Marc McAusland gets a block in.85:58
Inswinging corner taken by John McGinn from the right by-line, Marc McAusland produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.85:36
David van Zanten takes a shot. Simon Ramsden gets a block in.85:07
Free kick awarded for a foul by Nicky Law on Lewis Guy. Kenny McLean restarts play with the free kick.84:48
Lewis Guy concedes a free kick for a foul on Simon Ramsden. Simon Ramsden restarts play with the free kick.84:32
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Nicky Law, Craig Samson makes a save.84:08 Booking
Booking The referee shows Marc McAusland a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.83:54
The ball is sent over by Omar Daley, clearance made by Jim Goodwin.83:16
Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Save made by Craig Samson.82:49 Substitution
Substitution Paul Dummett leaves the field to be replaced by David van Zanten.
Keith Lasley is penalised for a handball. Free kick taken by Jim Goodwin.80:13
Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Lee Mair gets a block in.79:04 Substitution
Substitution Omar Daley comes on in place of Tom Hateley.76:37
Henrik Ojamaa provided the assist for the goal.76:37 Goal scored
Goal! - Robert McHugh - St Mirren 2 - 1 Motherwell A goal is scored by Robert McHugh from inside the area high into the middle of the goal. St Mirren 2-1 Motherwell.76:12
The ball is swung over by Keith Lasley, clearance by Lee Mair.75:08
Inswinging corner taken by Tom Hateley, Simon Ramsden takes a shot. Clearance by Lee Mair.74:31
Zaine Francis-Angol sends in a cross, blocked by Jim Goodwin.73:36
Effort from deep inside the area by Robert McHugh clears the bar.73:04
The ball is swung over by Chris Humphrey, Paul Dummett gets a block in.71:30 Substitution
Substitution Lee Mair joins the action as a substitute, replacing Gary Teale.71:30 Substitution
Substitution Zaine Francis-Angol replaces Stevie Hammell.71:14
Tom Hateley takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, Jim Goodwin makes a clearance.70:49
Corner taken by Tom Hateley from the right by-line.70:28
The ball is crossed by Chris Humphrey, Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Blocked by Marc McAusland.69:30
Shot from just outside the box by Kenny McLean goes over the target.67:57 Substitution
Substitution Robert McHugh joins the action as a substitute, replacing Michael Higdon.67:57
Henrik Ojamaa has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the left-hand post.66:29
The ball is delivered by Nicky Law, clearance made by Jon Robertson.65:48
Gary Teale delivers the ball, Jon Robertson takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.63:33
Stevie Hammell delivers the ball, clearance made by Jim Goodwin.63:00
The offside flag is raised against Steven Thompson. Tom Hateley takes the indirect free kick.61:54
Lewis Guy challenges Simon Ramsden unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Nicky Law.58:10
Lewis Guy fouled by Stevie Hammell, the ref awards a free kick. Kenny McLean fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.54:16
Lewis Guy is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Darren Randolph takes the indirect free kick.52:45
Corner from left by-line taken by Tom Hateley.52:08
Steven Thompson produces a cross, clearance by Tom Hateley.48:55
Unfair challenge on Kenny McLean by Chris Humphrey results in a free kick. Paul Dummett takes the direct free kick.47:52
The ball is crossed by Lewis Guy, John McGinn takes a shot. Save made by Darren Randolph. Inswinging corner taken left-footed by John McGinn, comfortable save by Darren Randolph.47:01
The ball is swung over by Jon Robertson, Lewis Guy has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.45:35
Kenny McLean takes a shot.45:01
The second half has started.45:00 +0:34 Half time
Half Time The match has reached half-time.44:47
Henrik Ojamaa crosses the ball, Marc McAusland makes a clearance. Inswinging corner taken by Tom Hateley from the right by-line played to the near post, David Barron manages to make a clearance.44:27
Centre by Tom Hateley, Jim Goodwin makes a clearance.43:30
The ball is swung over by Henrik Ojamaa.43:04
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Tom Hateley.42:55
A cross is delivered by Chris Humphrey, clearance by Marc McAusland.41:52
Assist by Gary Teale.41:52 Goal scored
Goal! - Steven Thompson - St Mirren 2 - 0 Motherwell Steven Thompson grabs a headed goal from close range. St Mirren 2-0 Motherwell.40:22
Keith Lasley takes a shot. Jim Goodwin gets a block in.40:03
The ball is swung over by Jon Robertson, clearance by Simon Ramsden.38:26
Assist by Jon Robertson.38:26 Goal scored
Goal! - Steven Thompson - St Mirren 1 - 0 Motherwell Steven Thompson scores a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. St Mirren 1-0 Motherwell.37:55
Gary Teale takes a shot. Blocked by Simon Ramsden.36:42
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Tom Hateley from the right by-line.36:12
Steven Thompson takes a shot. Blocked by Simon Ramsden.35:46
Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Marc McAusland gets a block in.35:08
The ball is sent over by Tom Hateley, David Barron manages to make a clearance.33:03
Henrik Ojamaa has shot on goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the right-hand upright.31:49
The ball is crossed by Tom Hateley.31:38
Tom Hateley decides to take the corner short.31:19
The ball is delivered by Jamie Murphy, Marc McAusland makes a clearance.30:47
Centre by Gary Teale, Darren Randolph makes a comfortable save.30:25
Corner taken left-footed by John McGinn to the near post, clearance made by Keith Lasley.30:13
Centre by Gary Teale, Simon Ramsden manages to make a clearance.28:47
Chris Humphrey concedes a free kick for a foul on Jim Goodwin. Craig Samson restarts play with the free kick.28:11
A cross is delivered by Gary Teale, Stevie Hammell gets a block in.27:14
Chris Humphrey has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand post.27:04
The ball is sent over by Jamie Murphy, Jim Goodwin makes a clearance.26:30
Corner taken right-footed by Gary Teale from the left by-line to the near post, save made by Darren Randolph.25:47
Kenny McLean takes a shot. Blocked by Nicky Law. Gary Teale takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, Shaun Hutchinson manages to make a clearance.25:10
David Barron takes a shot. Blocked by Shaun Hutchinson. Gary Teale decides to take the corner short.24:49
A cross is delivered by Jon Robertson.24:21
Henrik Ojamaa handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Craig Samson restarts play with the free kick.23:27
The ball is swung over by Nicky Law, Michael Higdon takes a shot. Save made by Craig Samson.22:53
Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Blocked by Jim Goodwin. A cross is delivered by Jamie Murphy, clearance made by Paul Dummett.21:57
The ball is swung over by Paul Dummett, save by Darren Randolph.21:14
The ball is swung over by John McGinn, Lewis Guy takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.19:41
Corner taken right-footed by Tom Hateley, Marc McAusland manages to make a clearance.19:22
Centre by Chris Humphrey, Marc McAusland makes a clearance.18:17
John McGinn takes the inswinging corner, Jim Goodwin takes a shot. Nicky Law makes a clearance.16:24
Effort from long distance by Henrik Ojamaa goes wide right of the target.14:26
The ball is delivered by John McGinn, clearance by Stevie Hammell.12:27
The referee gives a free kick against Jim Goodwin for handball. Free kick taken by Darren Randolph.11:54
Gary Teale takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Simon Ramsden manages to make a clearance.11:41
The ball is delivered by Kenny McLean, blocked by Henrik Ojamaa.10:39
Short corner worked by Tom Hateley.9:35
Corner taken left-footed by Stevie Hammell, Nicky Law takes a shot. Blocked by Jim Goodwin.5:22
A cross is delivered by David Barron.3:46
Jon Robertson has shot on goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.2:59
The official flags Lewis Guy offside. Free kick taken by Darren Randolph.2:46
Centre by Gary Teale, save by Darren Randolph.0:00
The match begins.
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