St Johnstone ended a seven-match losing streak with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Fir Park which leaves Motherwell further in relegation danger.
Goals early in each half from Drey Wright and Melker Hallberg moved Saints seven points above Motherwell and Dundee United at the bottom of the cinch Premiership.
Motherwell manager Steven Hammell gave debuts to four players following a busy deadline day at Fir Park but the newcomers struggled to make their mark as his side produced their worst display of the league season.
Hammell’s side have generally played some decent football and been undone by fine margins while dropping points they should have held on to. But this time they were well beaten.
They only managed five efforts at goal, one of them on target, and never looked like scoring.
The defeat leaves them winless in 10 league games and without a home Premiership victory since August 20.
Two of the new signings started, Jack Aitchison on the left flank and Riku Danzaki in an advanced midfield role. But the hosts were behind less than five minutes into a disjointed first-half display.
Fresh from his successful appeal against his weekend red card, Nicky Clark held the ball up in the box and laid it out to wing-back Wright. With left-back Stephen O’Donnell marking Clark, nobody had taken responsibility to track Wright’s run and the former Hibernian player finished in off the post.
Olly Crankshaw had a strike saved but Motherwell were struggling to get the ball in and around the Saints box and suffered a further blow when Shane Blaney went off injured in the 27th minute. Max Johnston came on to make it three natural right-backs in the back four as Paul McGinn shifted inside.
St Johnstone continued to look the more threatening side and made strong appeals for a penalty when Danzaki appeared to clip the impressive Adam Montgomery’s leg. Video assistant referee David Munro decided there was no need for Don Robertson to review the incident.
Another check resulted in the same outcome at the other end after Crankshaw went down under Dan Phillips’ challenge before Motherwell had a half chance when Montgomery blocked from Aitchison.
The brief flurry of pressure could not prevent Motherwell getting jeered off and Hammell made two half-time changes as on-loan Brighton left-back James Furlong came on along with midfielder Dean Cornelius.
Saints went further ahead four minutes into the half when Hallberg won the ball deep in Motherwell’s half and slotted home after a one-two with Stevie May.
Motherwell’s best chance came from a mistake when Wright was too short with a chested passback to Remi Matthews, but Crankshaw could only knock the ball across the face of goal.
Hammell handed another debut to on-loan Morecambe forward Jon Obika, who had not played since September 24, and the final quarter of the game passed without incident.