WITH the sun shining on a crisp summer’s night in Glasgow, it was an evening that offered much promise at the finale of a season for Partick Thistle.

In the end, as the yellow ball in the sky slowly dipped over the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill, the flickering light of securing Premiership safety faded along with it.

The message was clear to the Maryhill club. Better the result of Hamilton Academical in their own match with Motherwell and climbing out of the relegation play-off place would still be a hope as they travelled to Dens Park on Saturday on the last day of the campaign. Fail to outdo Ross County’s result in Dingwall, and their potential fate could take an even more sinister turn.

As it transpired, all three sides lost on a night when they needed to win. As County and Hamilton faltered, a Ryan Bowman header on 60 minutes effectively condemned Thistle to finish at best 11th, and keep them just two points above County with one game to go. To quote the great Sir Alex Ferguson, squeaky bum time just doesn’t cut it.

“The result overrides everything. The performance was just what we asked for,” said Alan Archibald, the Partick Thistle manager. “It’s in our hands for the play-off spot and we know that. We’ve got to recover and make sure we are ready to go.”

For Motherwell, the result places them in seventh ahead of Saturday’s Lanarkshire derby with Hamilton in their final dress rehearsal ahead of the Scottish Cup final. There were several in their number – including the magnificent young David Turnbull in the middle of the park – who shone for Stephen Robinson’s men.

However, this was a night that was all about Thistle, and is one they may well look back on with more than a tinge of regret.

With their objective clear, all that stood in the way were a Motherwell side safe from relegation, who had just been battered 5-1 in their previous match, and who hadn’t won at Firhill for four and a half years. Kingsley wasn’t even a glint in the milkman’s eye at that point.

But despite creating the majority of the chances, particularly with the game sitting at 0-0, they allowed Motherwell to gain a foothold in the match and take advantage of the palpable tension circulating around the stadium. And some poor defending as well.

The Thistle charge began early. In the first minute a whipped cross from captain Kris Doolan saw a glancing Conor Sammon header whistle across the Motherwell goal.

Eight minutes later Doolan was again the provider, this time for Ryan Edwards, but the midfielder could only divert his header straight at Trevor Carson.

Before the half was out Archibald’s side would go close again. Martin Woods saw his 25-yard pot shot parried by goalkeeper Carson only for Charles Dunne to swipe clear the rebound, while a slip from the Motherwell defender almost allowed Edwards to capitalise but he failed to capitalise.

Ten minutes into the second half and Thistle went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock. Doolan teed up Sammon at the edge of the box. The Irishman made a solid connection, but his shot trundled agonisingly inches wide of the near post.

Motherwell introduced Gael Bigirimana at half-time and went to a back three, and the extra man in midfield began to see them gain a foothold further up the park. On the hour mark, it paid off.

Chris Cadden was brought down by Baily Cargill out on the right. Wishaw-born Turnbull, just 18, stepped up with a stunning delivery from the free-kick that bent into the six-yard box for the unmarked Bowman to nod in his 10th goal of the season.

“We were poor on Saturday in losing 5-1 at home to St Johnstone so it was important we bounced back,” said Robinson, “and I thought we fought our way into the game pretty well. The goal was a good delivery and a good header and it came at a time when we were playing really well.”

The mood inside the ground grew more fraught as Thistle searched desperately for a way back in. Christie Elliot tried from range, Miles Storey flashed a shot across goal while a late cavalry charge at the death from Tomas Cerny only offered up Motherwell’s 19th clean sheet of the season, equalling a club record.

Now Thistle must go to the City of Discovery to find out what their side are made of.