St Johnstone 3-0 Motherwell
Steven MacLean scored twice on his return from knee surgery as St Johnstone beat Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership.
The experienced striker tapped home early on after Gunnar Nielsen had fumbled Stevie May's shot.
And MacLean netted his second from a Brian Easton cross before the half-time interval.
Gary Miller meandered forward to fire Saints' third from a difficult angle late on.
The win gives Tommy Wright's side a three-point advantage over seventh-place Hibernian, while Motherwell are now four behind Aberdeen, who are second.
It was the visitors who threatened first, Henri Anier spinning away from Steven Anderson and sending a shot just wide.
MacLean was making his first appearance since October and his comeback was given an instant boost when he netted the opening goal.
Nielsen should have dealt with May's 30-yard free-kick but his attempts to gather the ball ran straight into MacLean's path, leaving him a simple finish.
St Johnstone were in the ascendancy but a rare foray forward from Motherwell led to a finger-tip save as goalkeeper Alan Mannus denied Iain Vigurs.
Easton's deep delivery caused problems for the 'Well defence and MacLean got to it before Shaun Hutchinson to force the second goal.
Stuart McCall's men had the chance to pull one back before half-time when a Vigurs free-kick picked out Stephen McManus unmarked but the defender skewed wide from close range.
And McCall took action at the break, sending on James McFadden and Lionel Ainsworth in place of Stevie Hammell and Vigurs.
However, it was Saints who were the more eager at the start of the second period with May and David Wotherspoon drawing saves from Nielsen.
MacLean was applauded off the park by the home fans as he made way for Chris Iwelumo and the substitute shot straight at Nielsen from Wotherspoon's pass moments after coming on.
It looked as though there would be no further scoring until Miller burst forward to net his first goal of the season and round off a fine evening's work for the Perth side.
- 24B Easton
- 22CroftBooked at 67minsSubstituted forMillarat 81'minutes
- 9MacLeanSubstituted forIwelumoat 72'minutes
- 17MayBooked at 41mins
- 11HasselbainkSubstituted forWotherspoonat 64'minutes
- 3HammellSubstituted forMcFaddenat 45'minutes
- 24AnierSubstituted forShirkieat 80'minutes
- 11VigursSubstituted forAinsworthat 45'minutes
- Kevin Clancy
- Shots on Target