Guy Melamed bounced back from his Betfred Cup final snub to net an impressive late equaliser for St Johnstone in a 1-1 draw at Hamilton.
Ross Callachan threatened to bring his former McDiarmid Park team-mates crashing back to earth with a wonderful strike. The midfielder curled an exquisite effort into the top corner in the 36th minute to give Accies the lead.
Hamilton striker David Moyo hit the frame of the goal but Melamed finally beat Ryan Fulton in the 87th minute.
The Israeli striker did not play in Sunday’s final despite hitting a double at Motherwell the previous weekend, but he showed his value in Lanarkshire once again.
The late goal kept Hamilton bottom of the Scottish Premiership but now level on points with Kilmarnock, while Saints are five points off the top six with two games until the split.
The cup winners will need to beat Hibernian at home on Saturday and hope St Mirren do not win at Ibrox to take their fight for a top-half finish to the final game.
Callum Davidson made four changes to his Hampden side with Scott Tanser, Craig Bryson and front pair Stevie May and Melamed coming in.
Accies were missing Jamie Hamilton, despite overturning his Easter Road red card, but Aaron Martin was back from injury to take his place in central defence. Moyo came in for striker Marios Ogmpkoe, who suffered a hamstring injury in their defeat against Hibs.
The home side made a good start and put the pressure on from a series of set-pieces but Saints settled into a passing rhythm and came close on several occasions.
Tanser volleyed wide from a well-worked corner and Melamed forced two decent stops from Fulton after linking up with May.
The opener came after Callachan and Bruce Anderson worked their way up the right flank. There appeared little danger when the former Saints midfielder received the ball on the edge of the box with a defender in front of him and the smallest of targets to aim for.
But he curled a brilliant effort right into the top corner and out of reach of Zander Clark’s outstretched arm.
Fulton again denied Melamed with an excellent stop to push his header round the post for a corner early in the second half.
Shaun Rooney went off with what appeared to be a calf strain, three days after netting the Hampden winner against Livingston.
Accies appealed for a goal, more in hope than expectation, when Clark backtracked to hold Charlie Trafford’s looping header on the line, and the home side again came close when Moyo powered a shot off the junction of post and crossbar.
Hamilton appeared to have repelled the pressure from Saints but were caught out by a ball over the top from Liam Gordon. As they looked for an offside flag, Melamed took the ball out of the air and stabbed it past Fulton.
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