St Johnstone took a huge step towards clinching a top-six spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership with a convincing 2-0 win over Dundee at McDiarmid Park.
Paul Paton scored his first goal since signing last summer with a header in the 12th minute before fellow midfielder Blair Alston added a second seven minutes later with a low drive.
The second half was more even but the Dens Park men never looked like preventing Saints winning at home for the first time in four games.
The Perth side remain in fifth place but are nine points ahead of seventh-placed Kilmarnock and 10 clear of Dundee, with only five matches remaining before the league splits into two, and will be confident of securing their sixth successive top-half finish.
St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright had asked his side to start the game sprightly and they heeded his advice as they raced into an early two-goal lead.
The industrious hosts, indeed, should have gone ahead in the fourth minute when a Steven MacLean cross from the right picked out his unmarked fellow striker Graham Cummins, but his weak header from eight yards bounced directly at Dundee keeper Scott Bain.
However, the Perth men did get in front in the 12th minute when defender Joe Shaughnessy’s long, diagonal ball from deep was headed back across the penalty area by Cummins and Paton beat Bain in the race and headed into the net from 10 yards.
Dundee were in some disarray defensively.
St Johnstone midfielder Danny Swanson cleared the bar by inches with a lobbed shot from the edge of the box moments before goal number two arrived.
When Alston took a pass from MacLean and drilled in a shot from 20 yards, Bain appeared to misjudge the pace of the ball and it went past him at his near post to leave a disjointed Dundee side in real trouble.
The home side finished the half strongly and three minutes from the break the Dundee keeper tipped a MacLean drive over the bar before St Johnstone full-back Richard Foster fired just wide of the far post from 16 yards.
Dundee came out fighting at the start of the second half and Saints keeper Zander Clark parried a powerful strike by midfielder James Vincent before the ball was scrambled to safety.
Saints steadied and Paton’s 25-yard drive missed Bain’s post by a foot, and thereafter the game stretched as both sides went at each other with more enthusiasm than quality.
Dundee substitute Faissal El Bakhtaoui, on for Henrik Ojamaa, was booked by referee Andrew Dallas in the 70th minute for simulation, but there was little else of note in the closing stages as the home side made sure the visitors could not get the lifeline of a goal.