St Mirren enjoyed a happy ending to 2023 as Stephen Robinson’s men finished the year with a win over Aberdeen that improves their standing in the top six of the cinch Premiership.
The Buddies took the lead through captain Mark O’Hara’s deflected strike before the same man missed from the penalty spot.
However, Jonah Ayunga doubled the lead before Greg Kiltie netted from the spot in injury-time to cap the win.
The Dons had started brightly, winning a corner after just 13 seconds, which sparked a period of pressure culminating in a hopeful penalty claim from Jamie McGrath.
They continued to press and perhaps Duk will feel he could have done more as he allowed Graeme Shinnie’s cutback from the left through his legs when a flick could have opened the scoring.
But after such a bright start, the home side were ultimately masters of their own downfall.
Leighton Clarkson gave away possession cheaply in midfield and St Mirren punished them after 12 minutes. Kiltie’s cross was never dealt with convincingly by the home side and when the ball dropped to O’Hara, he rifled home the opener via a deflection.
O’Hara could have had a double just six minutes later as a VAR check confirmed a handball call against Dons defender Richard Jensen from Lewis Jamieson’s shot, but the Buddies captain sent the spot-kick wide left.
The home side came back into things, with a Slobodan Rubezic header blocked and Bojan Miovski firing wide, before Zach Hemming was forced into a smart low stop to deny Clarkson.
And they were left feeling hard done by when Jimmy McGarry looked to have been bundled over in the box by Marcus Fraser three minutes before the interval, but referee Grant Irvine waved play on with seemingly no intervention from the VAR official Greg Aitken.
The visitors were first to threaten after the interval, Jamieson’s low effort proving easy meat for Kelle Roos, before McGarry at the other end saw a powerful drive pushed round the post by Hemming.
Aberdeen were knocking on the door but came close to shooting themselves in the foot as Rubezic just about recovered a wayward Dante Polvara pass, moments after the American midfielder had headed wide. Rubezic would then slip, presenting a chance to Toyosi Olusanya, though Roos was able to save comfortably.
But fellow sub Ayunga would fire in from close range at the back post after Scott Tanser was allowed to curl in a sweet cross from the left, following more defensive chaos.
There was time for more mayhem as referee Irvine pointed to the spot after Stefan Gartenmann challenged Olusanya, only for an offside flag to go up, seemingly ruling out the award.
There then ensued a lengthy VAR check that ultimately decided there was no offside, leaving Kiltie to blast into the top-left corner from the spot.