There was no festive good fortune in the Fair City for St Johnstone who suffered a cruel late defeat to Rangers.
After taking the lead just before half-time through Matty Kennedy, and matching Steven Gerrard’s side blow for blow over the 90 minutes in a Christmas cracker of a contest, two goals from Alfredo Morelos took the points away from them.
The winner was scored in the 89th minute.
Rangers are no one-man team but there reliance on Morelos is there for all to see. He is now on 19 goals for the season.
Saints are eighth in the table but, with 11th and 12th placed sides St Mirren and Dundee still to play before the January break, they will hope to be back in the top six in a few days.
Play like this, and they will be.
There was a surprise change to the Saints starting line-up, with Tony Watt benched and Kennedy deployed as a lone striker. Tommy Wright also added Ross Callachan and Alston to his midfield.
Rangers were quickest out of the blocks and came close to taking the lead with just four minutes on the clock.
A James Tavernier diagonal ball from the right picked out Andy Halliday at the back post. The midfielder didn’t have to break stride but he scuffed his shot back across goal past the post.
Getting themselves up the pitch was proving to be a hard task in the opening stages for the Perth men but they were able to do just that on 10 minutes, earning a corner.
A short corner routine worked well and when the cross came into the box, Jason Kerr got his head to it. With the ball bouncing about in and around the area for the next few seconds, it refused to fall to a Saints player and Rangers were eventually able to clear.
The cross from right to left was a popular one for the visitors and when Richard Foster had to deal with one, his header struck off Eros Grezda and the ball looped over Zander Clark’s crossbar.
On 19 minutes Connor Goldson coughed up possession near his own box and in the blink of an eye David Wotherspoon had put Kennedy through. The angle was just too tight for a shot and the drilled low ball across the face of goal was cut out by Goldson.
The Saints chances were about to get better and better.
First Kennedy did a fine job of beating the two Rangers centre-backs to a long ball up the middle, then holding it up until support arrived. That support was from the impressive Murray Davidson whose run beyond his team-mate was spotted and the midfielder’s subsequent lob of Allan McGregor just failed to dip under the bar.
Then four minutes later Davidson guided a Wotherspoon corner back in the direction it had come and Liam Craig missed the target with his header from about four yards out.
This was an opportunity with tinsel on it.
After a period of Saints dominance, they were nearly punished for their failure to get a goal during it when Morelos came close with a deflected shot on 38 minutes.
They were forced to make a change on 41 minutes, though, with Lee Wallace replacing the injured Borna Barisic.
Instead of going in at half-time stewing on what might have been, Saints got the goal their first half play merited.
Seconds into injury time, a Scott Tanser switch of play arrived at Kennedy. With the Rangers defence anticipating an early shot, the former Everton and Kilmarnock man chopped inside past a sliding Halliday on to his left foot and lashed a shot high past McGregor.
Saints weren’t just sitting on their lead and shortly after the re-start a Tanser cross was only half-cleared to Foster at the edge of the box. His first time shot went straight at McGregor but the Scotland keeper didn’t take it cleanly and needed a second attempt to gather.
It was end to end stuff and for Rangers, Daniel Candeias would have been frustrated that he couldn’t keep a left foot shot down.
By 56 minutes, Gerrard had made all three substitutions, his last change being Kyle Lafferty for Lassana Coulibably.
One of the trio, Middleton, made his mark on 65 minutes when the first good cross for a long time from Rangers was headed home by Morelos.
There was parity in Perth but Kennedy did his best to try and make it short-lived when seconds after his team had conceded he cut in from the left touchline and curled a shot that just missed the far post.
Alston has got a great record of scoring against Rangers and he nearly got another one for his collection on 72 minutes. McGregor did well to keep out a well hit shot from the former Falkirk midfielder that came through a crowded penalty box.
A fortunate deflection on a through ball put Candeias in on goal and Clark made a fine save, then got back to his feet to deny Lafferty (with a bit of help from Kerr) from the rebound.
There was another excellent Clark stop on 82 minutes – thwarting Lafferty low to the keeper’s right.
Saints were getting pinned back but on 87 minutes they launched a box to box counter-attack that concluded with Alston heading the ball over the bar.
The winner came at the other end, though. Morelos wasn’t picked up when a ball was sent into the box from Tavernier and his finish was lethal.
The Saints performance drew post-match praise from Gerrard but it won’t make up for the pain of taking no points.