Motherwell face a fight for survival in the play-off’s after St Mirren ensured Ian Baraclough’s team will finish second bottom of the Scottish Premiership with a 2-1 win in Paisley.
With Kilmarnock and Ross County three points ahead before kick-off, the Steelmen knew they could not afford to slip up in their penultimate game of the campaign.
But while Killie put four goals past Partick on their way to victory and County claimed a vital 2-1 win over Hamilton, Well could not take their relegation fight down to the last day of the season as already-demoted Saints claimed the points.
Yet it had looked so promising when John Sutton stroked home a 76th-minute penalty.
But a calamitous mix-up at the back involving keeper George Long and defender Mark O’Brien allowed Jason Naismith to level six minutes from the end before Stevie Mallan lashed home his stoppage-time winner to hand interim Saints boss Gary Teale his third win in the last four games.
Motherwell finished the game with 10 men after striker Scott McDonald was sent off for elbowing Saints youngster Thomas Reilly and he now faces a three-match ban which will rule him out of the play-off final later this month.
The first half was a tale of woeful finishing and missed chances as both teams allowed a string of decent openings to go begging.
Saints defender Sean Kelly had his side’s first sight of the Well target three minutes in but made a mess of his shot at the back post.
Alan Gow then blew another opening after bursting through the middle of Motherwell centre-backs O’Brien and Stephen McManus but somehow pushed his shot wide with just Long to beat.
Well’s Lee Erwin was next to blunder as he failed to beat Marian Kello from eight yards out while Kelly notched up a second wasted effort as he ballooned the ball over Long’s goal after teenage defender Jack Baird did well to knock down James Dayton’s corner.
Gow’s afternoon ended on 70 minutes after he was the victim of a crunching McManus tackle. The defender only had eyes for the ball but collided hard with the Saints playmaker and deserved the yellow card flashed his way by referee Brian Colvin. Gow left on a stretcher as he was replaced by Lewis Morgan.
The substitute should have made himself an instant hero but instead contributed to the list of incredible misses.
Sent through on goal by Kieran Sadlier, he hesitated with just Long once more to beat, allowing the keeper out to block. The danger was not over yet though as the ball bounced back Sadlier. He cut back inside Long but instead of shooting squared it to Dayton, only for McManus to stop his shot on the line before Morgan was flagged offside as Motherwell bizarrely survived.
Inevitably Saints’ profligacy came back to haunt them 14 minutes from time as Well won a penalty. It was a clear decision after Reilly planted his knee into Erwin’s thigh as the Steelmen striker burst into the box.
Sutton, just on as a replacement for Johnson, ensured no more chances would be allowed to go to waste as he slotted into the bottom left-hand corner.
But there was another twist as Mallan pumped a long ball into the box. There did not seem too much danger as Naismith volleyed it back towards goal where Long was waiting to gather. But the on-loan Sheffield United keeper collided with O’Brien and let the ball slip into his net.
Bad went to worse a minute from time as McDonald was handed a straight red card after catching Reilly with a flailing elbow, while Mallan killed off any lingering hopes that they could spare themselves a play-off duel when he netted his stunning 25-yard strike.