Greg Kiltie’s precise second-half finish proved to be the winner as St Mirren claimed a priceless 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
The midfielder steered home Alex Greive’s cutback to settle a tight contest as they move to the brink of safety, eight points clear of the cinch Premiership relegation play-off spot with three games remaining.
St Johnstone, meanwhile, were unable to build on consecutive home victories and failed to have a shot on target in a poor performance that leaves them marooned in 11th spot.
The hosts’ starting line-up showed just one difference from last Saturday’s draw against Dundee as Tom Sang came into the backline in place of Dan Cleary.
St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson made three changes from their 1-0 defeat against Hibernian last time out as they looked to end a wretched run of four straight league defeats, with Kiltie, Alex Gogic and Greive coming into the side.
Despite their poor run of form, it was the visitors who came flying out of the traps and they almost took the lead after 30 seconds as Greive went through on goal but St Johnstone keeper Zander Clark got down low to his left to make a crucial save.
St Mirren had the hosts camped in their own half for the opening stages and Kiltie had a shot blocked before Richard Tait whistled a low effort wide.
St Johnstone grew into the game and had their first effort in the 22nd minute, Callum Hendry swivelling neatly in the box but just missing the target with his right foot.
After the frantic opening, the rest of the first half reflected the sides’ league positions and what was at stake, with both teams failing to muster anything of note in an attacking sense.
The second period looked to be going in the same direction as the first before the away side broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute with one of the first moves of real quality in the match.
Gogic released Greive down the left with an inch-perfect through ball and his cut-back found Kiltie, who steered a first-time shot low into the far corner with his left foot.
St Mirren looked to add to their lead and Curtis Main had two efforts off target, while the hosts were disappointing in attack and their fans vented their frustration as referee Andrew Dallas changed his mind on a Main handball just outside the area.
Callum Davidson was next to direct his fury in the direction of the officials as St Mirren’s Marcus Fraser was booked for a late tackle after escaping a card for a handball earlier in the second period.
The St Johnstone manager sent on four substitutes but they failed to make much of an impact, and aside from a last-minute Jamie McCart header which drifted wide, the visitors saw out the match in relative comfort to secure a huge victory.