HAMILTON Accies’ ability to dig out a result when they desperately need one remains unparalleled. Defeat away to a St Mirren side seemingly buoyed by their victory over Hearts the previous week would have seen them slide into the relegation play-off place and looking anxiously over their shoulders at bottom side Dundee.

Instead, Martin Canning’s men eased to a first away victory since August to stretch their lead over the Paisley outfit to five points, and they can now enter the midweek game at Dens Park with a greater sense of freedom. They were well worth their victory here, thanks largely to two assists and a goal from James Keatings.

“Normally people say you must be delighted with the result, but I'm more delighted with the performance and the result is obviously a consequence of the performance,” said Canning.

“I thought we were positive and aggressive with and without the ball. Our whole intention this week was to come here and win – it wasn't about trying to keep a gap or stay above St Mirren. It was about coming to try to win the game.

“We've managed to do that and we've got to look to Keatsy and the bits of quality he provided. Both set-piece deliveries and his goal were all fantastic. That's the special talent he can be if we can get him up and running.”

St Mirren’s frustration was compounded by a feeling that Ziggy Gordon should have been sent off for a professional foul on Simeon Jackson early in the second half. Instead, it was the striker who would be dismissed shortly afterwards for two bookings on Gordon.

“If you're inside the penalty box it's a yellow card and a penalty because there are no double whammys any more,” said St Mirren manager Oran Kearney. “But it's a cynical challenge outside the box. That's the most black and white decision of the day.”

Hamilton had scored a total of two goals in their previous five games and, to their virtual disbelief, they matched that total here within the opening 42 minutes.

Both goals were well executed but neither play showed St Mirren in any great light in a defensive sense. The first arrived after 21 minutes, Dougie Imrie allowed to run unobstructed to redirect Keatings’ corner into the far corner of the net with the smartest of headers.

A needless late tackle on Scott Martin then presented the visitors with a free kick wide on the touchline. Keatings’ delivery was again inch-perfect and Gordon this time found himself unmarked to steer home his shot from a couple of yards. There was barely a St Mirren defender in the same postcode at the time.

That looked a decisive moment in the outcome of the match – possibly also for the season as a whole – but St Mirren gave themselves an unforeseen lifeline just before half-time. A corner was cleared out to Ethan Erhahon who planted an enticing header back into the penalty box. Stephen McGinn’s volley was low and precise.

That goal imbued St Mirren with a sense of belief at the start of the second half but, after a positive opening, they were suckered by a third Hamilton goal after 55 minutes that all but sealed the victory.

Keatings’ endeavour had deserved a goal and he claimed it in style, fastening on to Aaron McGowan’s pass before uncorking a shot from the edge of the penalty box that sailed into the top corner. The forward’s afternoon, however, would end in disappointment when he was forced off with an injury, but he had made his mark by then.