A lively, entertaining joust that was as crisp as a cold lager in the Electric Bar ended with Motherwell jumping into third place in the Ladbrokes Premiership and knocking Kilmarnock down two places to fifth in the process.

The visitors, who played for almost 75 minutes with 10-men after Alex Bruce’s early and contentious sending off, battled manfully but were put to the sword by goals from Liam Donnelly and Devante Cole.

It was a sore one for Kilmarnock, though. Bruce appeared to get a foot on the ball when he challenged Christopher Long but Don Robertson, the referee, saw it differently and swiftly reached for that red thing in his breast pocket. Kilmarnock are set to appeal the decision.

“The sending off was the main point in the game as it wasn’t a free-kick and he shouldn’t have been sent off,” said the Kilmarnock manager, Angelo Alessio. “Bruce takes the ball. It changed the game and it’s right that we will appeal.”

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It was certainly a parky night for semmits, long johns, bunnets and other heat-preserving accoutrements but that early red card warmed things up a bit. Bruce’s last-gasp lunge on Long immediately led to a red card being brandished and with Kilmarnock reeling from that reduction in bodies, the hosts hit them with another hefty dunt from the resulting free-kick.

Donnelly, who had flashed a shot just over the bar after seven minutes, went low this time and his effort whistled under the jumping wall and into the net.

Kilmarnock, who lost Darlo del Fabro in the warm-up, went into this match having conceded just eight goals in the league thanks to the kind of miserly approach that would have made Scrooge look like Warren Buffett. Having scored just nine, however, getting back into this tussle with 10-men was going to take a mighty effort. But get back into the match they did.

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A rare foray forward on the half hour led to Dom Thomas whipping the ball in from the right hand angle of the box. Mark Gillespie, the Motherwell custodian, seemed to be taken by surprise as this bothersome sphere bounced past him and nestled into the bottom corner. It wasn’t Gillespie’s finest moment.

Buoyed by that equaliser, Kilmarnock grew in stature and were the far more polished and poised side for the remainder of the half. Motherwell, meanwhile, looked like a side still smarting from the concession of a soft goal.

The interval did the home side the power of good and they emerged for the second period with renewed vigour. A sustained period of purposeful probing was eventually rewarded with a breakthrough on 54 minutes. Jake Carroll flung over an inviting, menacing cross from the left into the six yard box and Cole rose unchallenged to complete the necessaries with his head from close range.

It was all one-way traffic now. Kilmarnock didn’t just have their backs against the wall, they were just about stuck in the pointing as Motherwell toyed and tormented them in the search for a third.

The visitors made a couple of changes in an attempt to wriggle out of the stranglehold and one of these substitutes, Eamonn Brophy, came close to fashioning an equaliser when his run and cross was almost turned into the net by a Motherwell defensive boot. From the resulting corner, loud appeals for a penalty were howled during a stooshie in the box but nothing came of it.

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Despite this little raid, Motherwell were still well in command and should have killed it off in the last knockings. Long surged into the box and his cut back fell to Allan Campbell whose shot was somehow deflected over the bar.

There was still time for a Kilmarnock flurry and Brophy’s searing strike from distance was brilliantly turned away for a corner by Gillespie.

“I actually thought we played better against 11 men as it is hard to play against ten,” admitted Stephen Robinson, the Motherwell manager. “We should have been out of sight after the second goal and my only qualm is that we should have managed to the game better. But we got back to winning ways and I’m delighted.”