A late Jags rally could not prevent the St Mirren supporters’ football team from taking maximum points in this Premier League basement battle.
St Mirrenoff went into this relegation six pointer with bottom side Sparta Jags knowing a defeat would have seen them hit the foot of the table for the first time this season.
But goals from Robert Hillcoat, David Wilson and Duncan Johnston had Saints cruising to victory and two Thistle strikes in the final minutes proved merely a footnote in a vital home win.
An early evening kick-off was delayed at the University of the West of Scotland pitches, as the Jags side ignored the agreed kick-off time, instead talking tactics in the changing rooms.
However, their game plan soon seemed out the window as Saints pressed from the outset and were quickly in front.
A long clearance from winger Andy Tucker was chased by the hardworking Hillcoat, who sprung the offside trap and coolly slotted the ball under the Sparta goalkeeper.
With the bit between their teeth, Saints were finding plenty of space in the final third and the Sparta stopper was soon called into action to divert a shot on the turn by midfielder David Christie.
Defender Ian Craig then flashed a header wide as Saints looked to capitalise on their height advantage from a corner.
Bizarrely, Sparta’s disorganisation was proving a problem for Saints, who struggled to keep their shape with opponents sprinkled all over the park.
A frank discussion at half-time helped to re-focus Saints and they got the second goal they deserved when, from another testing corner, won by Craig Sinclair, a Jags defender inexplicably handled the ball in the box.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and up stepped Wilson, who fired the penalty high into the roof of the net.
Saints then made it three through a fantastic counter attack from a Jags corner. Johnston cleared the corner to striker Hillcoat, who layed the ball back to the wing-back on the halfway line.
Johnston then knocked the ball beyond the last defender and charged up the left wing, before cutting inside and placing his shot expertly beyond the keeper.
Saints passed up a golden opportunity to be on easy street when Hillcoat was put through by a perfectly weighted pass from midfielder Chris Dailly, the lively striker’s shot well saved by the keeper’s outstretched foot. And the same foot then denied Christie, blocking a toe-poked effort from 10 yards.
No-nonsense defending from Craig, Fraser Gray and Chris Adam had ensured Jags had been feeding on scraps all night. And it took a stunning volley 10 minutes from time to finally breach the home defence, with keeper Craig Muir rooted to the spot.
Inspired by Johnston’s solo effort, sub midfielder David Brydson weaved past several would-be tacklers before dinking a shot over the Sparta keeper, but agonisingly off the top of the bar and out. And the same player then rifled a shot just wide as the copper looked to nick a goal.
Then, in the dying seconds, a Sparta sub rounded two defenders and fired into Muir's bottom corner to put the result in doubt, but the buddies hung on to open up a small cushion at the bottom.