St Johnstone needed their trademark perseverance to salvage a late draw against Hamilton Accies.
They fell behind to a contentious first half Greg Docherty goal and in a one-sided second half threw everything at their opponents.
The cutting edge required to get the Perth men an equaliser was missing until Liam Craig found the net in the 82nd minute with a cleanly struck finish through a ruck of players from just inside the box.
Saints didn’t settle for the point and substitute Chris Kane came close with an injury time shot that scraped past the post.
It wasn’t the victory that their second half efforts deserved, and that would have taken the McDiarmid side into second place, but it keeps their league momentum going.
Tommy Wright made five changes to the team which started the Betfred Cup quarter-final. Steven MacLean doesn’t play on artificial pitches so was stood down, while David Wotherspoon, Paul Paton, Joe Gormley and Liam Gordon were all on the bench.
The quintet promoted to the first XI were Craig, Blair Alston, Michael Coulson, Graham Cummins and Richard Foster.
It only took four minutes for Wright’s plans to be redrafted when Foster hobbled off injured. He was replaced at right back by youngster Aaron Comrie.
Down the other side of the pitch a ball was chipped over Brian Easton. Zander Clark was alive to the situation and he was off his line quickly enough to thwart Eamonn Brophy.
Saints’ first attempt on goal came on 10 minutes when the ball broke nicely to Craig just outside the box. He has scored plenty from that sort of position over his career but this wasn’t one such occasion and his effort didn’t trouble Remi Matthews.
With Foster already in the changing room, the last thing Wright would have wanted to see was Murray Davidson calling the physio on after he came off worst in a challenge with Alex D’Acol. Thankfully the injury-plagued midfielder was able to carry on after his treatment.
On 21 minutes Coulson sent an in-swinging free-kick from the left to the near post. It was met by Cummins, who headed wide.
Comrie was put under pressure by a ball over the top that was awkward to deal with. Brophy was breathing down his neck as he chased back but the 19-year-old coped well to clear the danger.
After breaking up Hamilton possession in midfield, Saints countered quickly and worked the ball to Craig, whose shot squirmed out of the keeper’s grasp. Matthews was able to gather it at the second attempt, though.
Saints were building some momentum towards the end of the first half and Coulson wasn’t far off target with a 20-yarder.
It was the hosts who took the lead, however. And it was a controversial goal.
Joe Shaughnessy was penalised for a challenge on D’Acol, but it just looked to be a case of two players going for a high ball. From the Ali Crawford free-kick the ball was headed across the six yard box and Docherty smashed a volley past Clark.
The goal was scored on 37 minutes and four minutes later Shaughnessy came close to equalising with a header.
After the break Saints started well and they camped themselves in the Accies half. There was a sublime piece of Danny Swanson skill when he out-witted two midfielders before releasing Cummins. The Irishman delivered into the box but there were no takers.
During those 15 minutes of dominance there was also a Craig 25-yard strike that was tipped over the bar.
The same man squandered an inviting dead-ball opportunity just outside the D on the hour mark.
For all Saints’ superiority they nearly went two behind on 67 minutes. Docherty was unmarked at the back post and it took excellent goalkeeping from Clark to stop his low shot.
Swanson stepped up to take a free-kick from virtually the same position as Craig a few minutes earlier but he was equally as inaccurate with his effort.
Some more Swanson magic got Easton on the over-lap. His cross to the back post was met by Shaughnessy but the Irishman couldn’t get enough power on it to beat Matthews.
Just when it looked as if it wasn’t going to be Saints’ day they grabbed an 82nd minute equaliser when Craig drilled his finish past Matthews after Alston had seen his shot saved.
Just two minutes later however they nearly went behind again when Clark took two attempts to deal with a Dougie Imrie shot.
Hamilton – Matthews, Seaborne, Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty, D’Acol (Longridge 64), Crawford, Mackinnon, Brophy (Bingham 77), Donati, Sarris. Subs not used – Thomson, Redmond, Roy, McMann, Want.
St Johnstone – Clark, Alston, Anderson, Davidson, Swanson, Shaughnessy, Coulson (Gormley 68), Foster (Comrie 4), Easton, Craig, Cummins (Kane 73). Subs not used – Mannus, Wotherspoon, Paton, Gordon.
Referee – Euan Anderson.