Kilmarnock’s first league away win of the season was not enough to deny St Mirren their first-ever Premiership top-six finish.
First-half goals from Liam Donnelly and Christian Doidge earned Derek McInnes’ side a well-earned 2-0 victory in Paisley to ease their relegation worries.
St Mirren – who had Thierry Small sent off for two bookings in quick succession – were far below their usual best but still booked their place in the top half of the table for the post-split fixtures courtesy of Dundee United’s win over Livingston.
The home side made one change from the team beaten by Rangers, with Keanu Baccus replacing Greg Kiltie.
Kilmarnock in turn made two changes, one just moments before kick-off. Out went Fraser Murray and Joe Wright – who was injured in the warm-up – with Alan Power and Rory McKenzie slotting into the starting XI.
The visitors created a chance straight from kick-off but David Watson’s flick lacked the power to trouble Trevor Carson in the Saints goal.
The home side’s first opportunity came from a Scott Tanser corner that Alex Gogic headed well over the crossbar.
It was Kilmarnock who moved in front after 18 minutes, with Donnelly applying a low finish from inside the box after good work by Kyle Vassell.
St Mirren’s response was a Baccus run that was ended abruptly by Donnelly right on the edge of the box. The ball was touched to Curtis Main whose goalbound blast was bravely blocked.
It was end-to-end at this stage, with Vassell’s turn and shot well held by the goalkeeper before the striker then headed just wide after Watson’s long throw-in was flicked into his path by Ash Taylor.
Kilmarnock, though, were not to be denied after 35 minutes. Danny Armstrong floated a cross in from the right and Doidge rose highest to glance a header in off the far post to double his side’s advantage.
St Mirren could have pulled one back before half-time but Tony Watt’s shot from close range flew high over the crossbar.
The away side should have been three ahead after just one minute of the second half. Watson’s deep cross picked out Rory McKenzie and his volley was spectacularly saved by Carson from close range.
St Mirren’s reply was a Ryan Strain effort that was comfortably grabbed by Sam Walker.
Their cause was then made worse when Small was shown two yellow cards in the space of just 14 seconds.
The first was for dissent when he protested the decision to award a St Mirren throw-in to Kilmarnock.
The on-loan Southampton defender then compounded that folly by hauling back Watson when the throw came in and was promptly sent off.
St Mirren never looked like scoring all afternoon but the result from Tannadice meant the stadium’s first-ever capacity crowd still went home relatively happy.