Michael Higdon grabbed his second hat-trick of the season to give Motherwell their first win of 2013 as the SPL campaign returned from the winter break.
As the match with St Johnstone was being played on Sunday, the Fir Parkers knew they needed a win to keep level with second-placed Inverness, who’d thrashed Aberdeen the day before.
And they made quick work of taking the lead as with just eight minutes on the clock HIGDON turned in Chris Humphrey’s low cross.
St Johnstone were without their playmaker Murray Davidson and despite lots of possession failed to find the cutting edge to trouble Daren Randolph.
Indeed it was his own defenders who caused him the most concern as Shaun Hutchinson headed Liam Craig’s corner towards his own net, but Keith Lasley was on the line to clear.
Saints’ striker Steven MacLean then did the defender’s job as he got in the road of teammate Craig’s shot from the edge of the box and the ball bobbled wide.
On 20 minutes it was 2-0 as Higdon found the target again.
Henrik Ojamaa played the ball into the big striker who turned Frazer Wright, Callum Davidson came across to block, but the ball ran kindly for HIGDON to slam it past Alan Mannus.
In response Gregory Tade crashed a header against the post, but it was judged that Rowan Vine’s cross had gone just out of play and at half-time ‘Well were two goals to the good.
The start of the second half was a little cagey as St Johnstone continued to attack with blunt teeth and ‘Well were happy to get men behind the ball.
However, HIGDON looked to have put the home side on easy street with his third on 69 minutes, as Hutchinson’s header from Tom Hateley’s corner hit Davidson and the hat-trick hero was on hand to fire home.
’Well should now have been cruising, but on 76 minutes were dealt a blow as Randolph limped off, his hamstring giving up having been injured when he stepped on a ball in the warm-up.
Two minutes later and his replacement Lee Hollis’s first duty was to pick the ball out the back of the net as St Johnstone substitute NIGEL HASSELBAINK played a one-two with MacLean and lashed in an unstoppable site.
And less than 60 seconds later it was 3-2 as MacLean’s cross was only cleared as far as the edge of the box by Hateley where CRAIG was waiting to put the ball into the bottom corner.
He’d been beaten twice having been on the pitch for just three minutes, but Hollis would have the last laugh.
With so much momentum it looked like St Johnstone would do to Motherwell what ’Well had already done to Hibernian and Kilmarnock in staging remarkable comebacks this season.
But Hollis ensured it wasn’t to be by making himself big to deny Hasselbaink in the closing moments after the Dutchman had muscled his way past Simon Ramsden.
Motherwell: Randolph (Hollis 76), Hammell, Law, Hutchinson, Hateley, Humphrey, Ojamaa (Carswell 82), Higdon, Lasley, Ramsden, McHugh (Francis-Angol 70). Subs not used: Higginbotham, Daley, Kerr, Hetherington.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Davidson, Wright, Millar (Cregg 75), Tade (Miller 76), Craig, MacLean, McCracken, Pawlett (Hasselbaink 62), Vine. Subs not used: Tuffey, Moffat, Scobbie, Stevens.
Referee: Willie Collum.