St Mirren manager Oran Kearney felt his plan to capitalise on Motherwell’s angst came to fruition as Simeon Jackson netted the only goal at Fir Park.
And Kearney hopes there is plenty more anxiety among his opponents in the weeks and months ahead after Saints dragged the Steelmen down towards the Ladbrokes Premiership relegation battle.
Motherwell had the chance to move 12 points off the bottom but they struggled for creativity in an uneventful first half.
Saints brought on attacking midfielders Adam Hammill and Cammy Smith just before the hour mark and the latter burst through and fired a shot which was followed up by Jackson to net from close range in the 68th minute.
Second-bottom Saints cut the gap on their hosts to six points and made it very much a four-way fight going into Christmas.
“A game like this between two teams where we are situated is probably more like a game of chess,” Kearney said. “All week I would have bitten your arm off for 0-0 at half-time. They are at home and that probably brings a bit of angst and they start to come out a bit more.
“The substitutions happened at a time when the game was naturally going to open up for us a little bit and it proved that way. It allowed us to get our goal and give us something to hold on to.”
After a first away win of the season, Kearney added: “Our big psyche going into the game was that we had under-performed against the teams around us and we wanted to put that right. That was probably the most pleasing point.
“I’m sure their mentality this week revolved around trying to put big distance between us and them and ours was trying to put a hook in them and reel them back in. It’s important we keep as many teams in the mix as possible for as long as possible.
“When it comes to that stage of the season when things become edgy and nervous, it’s important we have company down there.”
Motherwell brought back the five players they rested in their midweek defeat at Celtic Park but there was no spark about their play.
Assistant manager Keith Lasley said: “The tempo was too slow and we just never got going, which here, in such a big game, at the start of a big week, was not what we were looking for.
“It was the same team that beat St Johnstone and our problem is we have given really good performances followed up by a performance like that.
“We have got to find that consistency if we have any chance of pushing ourselves up that table.
“Any talk of looking above us is based on finding that consistency. Until we do that, we are still in a battle. There are two games before the break and they become even more crucial now. We have to give ourselves a bit of positivity going into that break.”