Match ends, Motherwell 1, Kilmarnock 2.
Patience delivered the decisive moment for Kilmarnock as Craig Slater slammed in the winning goal at Fir Park in the last of five minutes of stoppage time.
Motherwell took the lead through Iain Vigurs' first-half strike.
But Kilmarnock were worthy of the leveller Rory McKenzie provided with a composed finish on 66 minutes.
Alexei Eremenko struck the crossbar with a lovely lofted effort as the clock ticked down but the visitors were soon celebrating Slater's strike.
These sides were already separated by their circumstances. Motherwell are in pursuit of a second-place finish, while Kilmarnock are trying to prevent themselves falling into the relegation play-off place. Kilmarnock, though, refused to be inhibited.
Individuals were capable of technical aplomb - Eremenko sprayed passes around the field with both feet - but there were few constructive passages of play from either side. Effort was widespread, though, and the industry brought rewards of a sort.
Robbie Muirhead found himself central to the occasional moments of intrepidness. The Kilmarnock striker shot from the edge of the area only for Motherwell goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen to block.
Muirhead then guarded the post at a corner, and kicked the ball off the line from Craig Reid's header.
There was a contrast in the centre of Kilmarnock's midfield. Eremenko was capable of refined artistry, while Jackson Irvine scurried around the field with a busy intensity. He often seemed untidy, given his urgent style, and the lack of composure was galling for Kilmarnock when the Australian failed to connect properly from Eremenko's cross.
As if to chastise the visitors, Motherwell took further advantage just before half-time when Vigurs hit a firm left-foot shot on target from the edge of the area. Kilmarnock goalkeeper Craig Samson reached the ball with his left hand but he could not prevent it from running into the back of the net.
Suddenly liberated from the toil of the game, Vigurs then produced a delightful piece of skill. On the 18-yard line, he stood on the ball, spun round dragged it back and then surged towards goal. His finish was less accomplished, though, and he struck the ball into the side netting.
Kilmarnock had no cause to be subdued after the interval. John Sutton should have extended Motherwell's lead, only to waste a close-range header, but the contest remained evenly balanced.
The scoreline soon reflected this, after Irvine slipped a pass inside the Motherwell defence, and McKenzie kept a cool head as he shot past Nielsen.
There could be no slacking, since resourcefulness alone was still capable of delivering a goal. When Vigurs' free-kick was parried by Samson, the Kilmarnock centre-back Vitalijs Maksimenko had to move quickly to clear as Sutton slid in to try to convert the rebound.
Even the artisan could not deliver, since Eremenko chipped Nielsen only to see the ball bounce off the top of the bar.
However, Kilmarnock had time to fashion one more chance and Slater's shot lifts Allan Johnston's side to within one point of Hibs in seventh place.
- 14LasleyBooked at 90mins
- 25AinsworthSubstituted forLeitchat 69'minutes
- 22MooreSubstituted forAnierat 68'minutes
- 17Francis-AngolSubstituted forKerrat 89'minutes
- 16ClohessyBooked at 29minsSubstituted forBarbourat 55'minutes
- 18McKenzieSubstituted forNicholsonat 84'minutes
- 12Reguero Chapinal
- Bobby Madden
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Motherwell 1, Kilmarnock 2.
Goal! Motherwell 1, Kilmarnock 2. Craig Slater (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner.
Attempt missed. Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from the left side of the box is just a bit too high.
Stephen McManus (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock).
Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).
Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Keith Lasley (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Keith Lasley (Motherwell).
Craig Slater (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jack Leitch (Motherwell).
Craig Slater (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Craig Reid (Motherwell) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Attempt saved. Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock) header from very close range is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Motherwell. Fraser Kerr replaces Zaine Francis-Angol.
Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Stephen McManus.
Attempt blocked. Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell).
Vitalijs Maksimenko (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.