24 Dec Kilmarnock 0 – 1 St Johnstone
Murray Davidson’s first-half goal ensured St Johnstone enjoyed another win on their travels as they edged a 1-0 victory over Kilmarnock.
Tommy Wright’s outfit have been unconvincing at home this term, but away from Perth they have looked near unbeatable.
Inverness are the only side to defeat the McDiarmid men on the road so far and they maintained that proud record at Rugby Park as Davidson netted with a composed finish two minutes from half-time.
Killie finished the match with 10 men after Luke Hendrie collected two stoppage-time bookings just 60 seconds apart.
Saints’ victory now opens up a seven-point gap over Ross County in sixth, while also drawing them within one point of fourth-placed Hearts.
The visitors were lucky not to find themselves behind inside the opening three minutes when Rory McKenzie lined up to shoot 25 yards out.
Zander Clark should have gathered the strike easily but the nervy Saints keeper appeared to still have last week’s blunder against Motherwell on his mind as he let the ball squirm through his grasp before bouncing wide.
St Johnstone, though, got themselves on the front foot and were denied when McKenzie cleared from underneath his own crossbar after Davidson got a strong header to Danny Swanson’s corner.
But it was a debatable set-piece which led to the opener with the interval looming.
Referee Stephen Finnie handed Saints a corner despite the ball appearing to come off Blair Alston last as he tussled with Greg Taylor.
It proved a costly call for the hosts as Alston’s delivery was missed by Willie Boyle before landing at Davidson’s feet, who nonchalantly tucked his half-volley into the bottom corner.
Killie stepped things up after the break but were frustrated as Jordan Jones, Stevie Smith, Willie Boyle and Souleymane Coulibaly all failed to make the most of decent openings.
Saints had been forced to dig in and defend deep for most of the half but only a sensational point-blank save from Killie stopper Jamie MacDonald prevented Graham Cummins from doubling the visitors’ lead with 15 minutes left.
Brian Easton almost grabbed himself a rare goal but MacDonald was on hand to produce another solid stop while Liam Craig smashed the base of the post late on.
And with Saints running the clock down, Hendrie was dismissed in time added on after first charging through Craig in the corner before mouthing off at Finnie.