Michael Higdon's hat-trick gave Motherwell victory against St Johnstone at Fir Park despite a late come-back from the Perth side.
He netted his first from Chris Humphrey's centre before rifling a second before half-time.
Higdon was in the right place to slot home again after Shaun Hutchinson's blocked header in the second half.
Nigel Hasselbaink scored for Saints before Liam Craig's 20-yard drive made it a nervous finish for Motherwell.
The last time St Johnstone beat Motherwell was in September 2011, so the home side had high hopes of going level on points with second-placed Inverness CT.
A clever exchange of passes by Saints captain Dave MacKay and Rowan Vine created the game's first chance for Chris Millar, whose left-foot shot from the edge of the box drifted wide.
Motherwell winger Humphrey showed his threat shortly after, breaking down the right and almost finding Bob McHugh on the penalty spot with a low cross.
No joy that time, but the same move would bring Motherwell the lead on eight minutes.
This time the Englishman found Well's top scorer Higdon, who from 12 yards swept the ball back across Saints keeper Alan Mannus for his 14th goal of the season.
Keith Lasley had to be on his toes minutes later, clearing team-mate Hutchinson's net-bound header from Craig's corner off the line to prevent a certain own goal.
Then, on the 20-minute mark, Higdon struck again.
Henrik Ojamaa surged in-field and played a forward pass into the feet of Higdon on the edge of the box. The big striker was initially crowded out by Saints defender Frazer Wright, but the ball broke back to him and he rifled it into Mannus' bottom-right corner.
The visitors rallied and had two good chances to reduce the goal deficit before half-time.
Firstly, Gregory Tade hit the inside of the post with a close-range header, only to realise the linesman had flagged to say the cross had gone out of play.
Craig then had a decent right-footed effort from 10 yards blocked by the sprawling Nicky Law after being set-up by Millar.
And it was St Johnstone who went closest, in bizarre fashion, at the beginning of the second half.
Vine's cross was deflected by Motherwell right-back Tom Hateley, the ball looping onto Darren Randolph's crossbar and out of play.
Shortly after, Steven MacLean had a good sight of goal in the box but chose to cut inside, only managing a tame shot which Randolph gathered with ease.
With things just not happening for the Perth side, Motherwell capitalised in the 69th minute.
And yet again, it was Higdon.
This time, the tall Englishman was on hand to calmly slot home after Hutchinson's blocked header fell to him following Hateley's corner - making it 16 goals for Higdon this season.
But just when it all seemed done and dusted, St Johnstone sprang back into life.
On 77 minutes Hasselbaink worked one-twos with Vine and MacLean before thumping an 18-yard shot past Lee Hollis, who had replaced the injured Randolph seconds before.
Just two minutes later, Saints were well and truly back in it.
Craig, who recently signed a pre-contract deal with Hibs, reacted quickest to a Motherwell half-clearance and drove the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
Hollis had not even touched the ball with his hands yet, but made a crucial save from Hasselbaink in the last minute of normal time, smothering the Dutchman's effort.
Motherwell's Zaine Francis-Angol blundered in injury time, gifting possession to MacKay, but Vine could not connect properly with the cross and the home team hung on.
- 01 Randolph (Hollis - 75' )
- 03 Hammell
- 05 Hutchinson
- 15 Ramsden
- 04 Law
- 06 Hateley
- 07 Humphrey
- 14 Lasley
- 08 Ojamaa (Carswell - 82' )
- 09 Higdon
- 16 McHugh (Francis-Angol - 71' )
- 12 Hollis
- 19 Kerr
- 26 Francis-Angol
- 17 Daley
- 18 Carswell
- 27 Hetherington
- 11 Higginbotham
- 01 Mannus
- 02 MacKay Booked
- 03 Davidson
- 05 Wright
- 18 McCracken
- 07 Millar (Miller - 76' )
- 10 Craig
- 22 Pawlett (Hasselbaink - 62' )
- 09 Tade (Cregg - 76' )
- 17 MacLean
- 23 Vine
- 15 Tuffey
- 19 Miller
- 31 Moffat
- 33 Scobbie
- 04 Cregg
- 11 Hasselbaink
- 40 Steeves
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The match has reached full-time.90:00 +1:25
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Nicky Law by Liam Craig. Direct free kick taken by Tom Hateley.90:00 +0:23
Effort on goal by Rowan Vine from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.89:03
Stewart Carswell fouled by Gary Miller, the ref awards a free kick. Simon Ramsden takes the direct free kick.88:29
Shot by Nigel Hasselbaink from 12 yards. Save by Lee Hollis.87:52
Effort on goal by Chris Humphrey from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.87:09
Liam Craig takes the inswinging corner, save by Lee Hollis.86:35
Tom Hateley fouled by Rowan Vine, the ref awards a free kick. Lee Hollis takes the free kick.85:32
Foul by David McCracken on Michael Higdon, free kick awarded. Simon Ramsden restarts play with the free kick.83:07
The offside flag is raised against Callum Davidson. Free kick taken by Lee Hollis.81:26 Substitution
Substitution Henrik Ojamaa goes off and Stewart Carswell comes on.81:02
Foul by Michael Higdon on David McCracken, free kick awarded. Patrick Cregg takes the free kick.79:21
Liam Craig challenges Keith Lasley unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stevie Hammell takes the direct free kick.78:07 Goal scored
Goal! - Liam Craig - Motherwell 3 - 2 St J'stone Liam Craig gets on the score sheet with a goal from just outside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Motherwell 3-2 St Johnstone.76:51
The assist for the goal came from Steven MacLean.76:51 Goal scored
Goal! - Nigel Hasselbaink - Motherwell 3 - 1 St J'stone Nigel Hasselbaink scores a goal from just outside the box to the top right corner of the goal. Motherwell 3-1 St Johnstone.74:41 Substitution
Substitution Gary Miller on for Chris Millar.74:41 Substitution
Substitution Patrick Cregg comes on in place of Gregory Tade.74:41 Substitution
Substitution Darren Randolph goes off and Lee Hollis comes on.71:10
Tom Hateley crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed from left channel, save by Alan Mannus.
Booking David MacKay is given a yellow card.71:05
David MacKay challenges Zaine Francis-Angol unfairly and gives away a free kick.70:30 Substitution
Substitution Zaine Francis-Angol on for Robert McHugh.68:18
Assist on the goal came from Shaun Hutchinson.68:18 Goal scored
Goal! - Michael Higdon - Motherwell 3 - 0 St J'stone Michael Higdon grabs a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Motherwell 3-0 St Johnstone.67:42
Outswinging corner taken by Tom Hateley from the right by-line, Shaun Hutchinson takes a shot. David McCracken gets a block in.66:56
David MacKay gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Henrik Ojamaa. Simon Ramsden takes the free kick.65:15
Foul by Rowan Vine on Stevie Hammell, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.64:27
David MacKay concedes a free kick for a foul on Henrik Ojamaa. Free kick taken by Nicky Law.62:58
Gregory Tade is caught offside. Simon Ramsden restarts play with the free kick.61:03 Substitution
Substitution Nigel Hasselbaink on for Peter Pawlett.60:10
Rowan Vine has an effort at goal from 18 yards. Blocked by Shaun Hutchinson.59:05
Steven MacLean concedes a free kick for a foul on Nicky Law. Direct free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.58:19
Chris Millar fouled by Keith Lasley, the ref awards a free kick. Chris Millar takes the direct free kick.58:00
Effort on goal by Chris Humphrey from 20 yards. Blocked by Frazer Wright.57:45
The referee gives a free kick against Liam Craig for handball. Keith Lasley takes the direct free kick.55:22
Steven MacLean takes a shot. Darren Randolph makes a save.52:34
Simon Ramsden challenges Gregory Tade unfairly and gives away a free kick. Strike comes in from Liam Craig from the free kick.51:34
David MacKay gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Robert McHugh. Tom Hateley crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance by Liam Craig.50:03
Peter Pawlett takes a outswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Shaun Hutchinson.49:50
Rowan Vine takes a shot.49:12
Effort on goal by Robert McHugh from inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.48:33
Effort from outside the penalty box by Liam Craig goes wide left of the target.47:38
Michael Higdon concedes a free kick for a foul on Frazer Wright. Direct free kick taken by Alan Mannus.47:10
Gregory Tade is caught offside. Darren Randolph restarts play with the free kick.46:24
Robert McHugh concedes a free kick for a foul on Frazer Wright. David McCracken takes the direct free kick.45:37
Short corner taken by Nicky Law.45:01
The game restarts for the second half.45:00 +0:21 Half time
Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.45:00 +0:03
Shot from 12 yards by Rowan Vine. Save made by Darren Randolph.39:59
Keith Lasley gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Gregory Tade. Free kick taken by Chris Millar.38:50
Liam Craig challenges Keith Lasley unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Simon Ramsden.34:40
Gregory Tade gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stevie Hammell. Stevie Hammell takes the direct free kick.33:07
Keith Lasley concedes a free kick for a foul on Steven MacLean. Liam Craig crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing, clearance made by Michael Higdon.32:40
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Liam Craig, clearance by Shaun Hutchinson.32:26
Liam Craig takes a shot. Blocked by Nicky Law.31:25
Liam Craig has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide right of the target.29:45
Handball by Henrik Ojamaa. Direct free kick taken by David MacKay.28:20
Free kick awarded for a foul by Peter Pawlett on Nicky Law. Free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.27:43
Short corner worked by Liam Craig.27:20
Liam Craig decides to take a short corner.26:58
Keith Lasley concedes a free kick for a foul on Peter Pawlett. Direct free kick taken by Callum Davidson.25:51
Outswinging corner taken by Tom Hateley from the right by-line, Foul by Shaun Hutchinson on Gregory Tade, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Alan Mannus.23:38
David MacKay fouled by Henrik Ojamaa, the ref awards a free kick. Alan Mannus takes the direct free kick.22:52
Corner taken by Liam Craig, save by Darren Randolph.20:37
Liam Craig produces a left-footed effort from long distance that goes harmlessly over the bar.19:01
Assist by Henrik Ojamaa.19:01 Goal scored
Goal! - Michael Higdon - Motherwell 2 - 0 St J'stone Michael Higdon grabs a goal from just outside the box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Motherwell 2-0 St Johnstone.16:14
Liam Craig produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the goal.13:42
Corner taken left-footed by Liam Craig from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Keith Lasley.13:11
Shot by Gregory Tade. Save by Darren Randolph.12:01
Shot by Nicky Law. Save by Alan Mannus.11:27
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Tom Hateley from the right by-line to the near post, clearance by Frazer Wright.11:11
Rowan Vine challenges Stevie Hammell unfairly and gives away a free kick. Simon Ramsden takes the direct free kick.8:44
The official flags Steven MacLean offside. Free kick taken by Darren Randolph.7:44
The assist for the goal came from Chris Humphrey.7:44 Goal scored
Goal! - Michael Higdon - Motherwell 1 - 0 St J'stone Michael Higdon gets on the score sheet with a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Motherwell 1-0 St Johnstone.6:51
Shot on goal by Liam Craig from long range goes harmlessly over the target.6:16
Effort on goal by Rowan Vine from 20 yards. Save by Darren Randolph.5:35
Unfair challenge on Peter Pawlett by Stevie Hammell results in a free kick. Free kick taken by David MacKay.4:58
Rowan Vine fouled by Keith Lasley, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by David MacKay.3:33
Chris Millar has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.0:25
Free kick awarded for a foul by Steven MacLean on Shaun Hutchinson. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick.0:00
The game begins.
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