KYLE Lafferty became a hero in his native Northern Ireland back in 2015 when his goals clinched a place at Euro 2016 and ended his country’s agonising 30 year wait to qualify for the finals of a major tournament.

He will attain legendary status across the Irish Sea in Kilmarnock too if his strikes for the relegation-threatened Rugby Park outfit secure their Premiership survival this season.

The 6ft 4in 33-year-old has made a huge impact since his compatriot Tommy Wright took him to Ayrshire from Bologna on a short-term deal back in February.

His double for the home team in their penultimate game of the 2020/21 campaign – which took his tally to 12 in 10 games – may not have secured the outright victory which he and his team mates longed for and so desperately required.

They will still have to triumph at Hamilton on Sunday and hope that Ross County lose to Motherwell away in order avoid being sucked into the Premiership play-off against either Dundee or Raith Rovers.

However, Lafferty’s brace at least kept alive their chances of staying up without going through that two legged ordeal. If he continues to perform like he did in this thrilling encounter they will avoid dropping down to the Championship.  

The former Rangers forward has always possessed a daft streak and that surfaced on more than one occasion during this thrilling encounter.

Shortly after he had put Wright’s men in front he took great exception to a late challenge by Lee Erwin on his goalkeeper Danny Rogers and made his unhappiness known to fourth official Chris Graham. “When are you going to wake up?” he bellowed.

Mind you, his manager was hardly coolness personified on the touchline either. His exasperation with the carelessness of his charges’ play after they had edged ahead and annoyance with the referee’s decisions was obvious. At one stage he retreated to his dugout mouthing expletives. It is the time of season when emotions run high.

St Mirren, hoping to put their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to St Johnstone at Hampden on Sunday behind them with a morale-boosting win, would have levelled if their forwards had shown the same ruthlessness in the final third as Lafferty did.

Jay Henderson just failed to get on the end of an Ilkay Durmus cross in the Kilmarnock six yard box and Jon Obika headed a Henderson delivery over the crossbar.

Chris Burke, still going strong on the right wing at the age of 37, posed a threat whenever he got on the ball. He did superbly in the 35th minute to burrow his way past Jamie McGrath and test Alnwick from an acute angle. The keeper parried his attempt and Mitch Pinnock had his follow-up shot blocked.

Lafferty advanced towards the loose ball and threw himself theatrically to the ground in the St Mirren area after a nothing challenge by Lee Erwin. Match official David Munro wasn’t fooled by his dive and brandished a yellow card.

Munro also allowed play to continue when Obika went down after a challenge by Kirk Broadfoot after Rogers had palmed a deflected Henderson effort at the feet of the striker just before half-time. Both decisions were correct.

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin put on Dylan Connolly for Durmus at the start of the second-half. But Kilmarnock continued to threaten. Daniel Finlayson had to clear a Lafferty headed off his goaline and then Alnwick denied Buke.

It was little surprise when the home team forged further in front in the 62nd minute. Nor was the identity of the scorer a shock. Lafferty timed a run into the visitors’ penalty box to perfection and glanced a Calum Waters cross into the bottom right corner of the net.

But falling two behind suddenly roused St Mirren to life. Jamie McGrath pulled one back for St Mirren within a minute. Then Goodwin made a triple substitution, removing Erwin, Jake Doyle Hayes and Obika and throwing on Kristian Dennis, Cameron MacPherson and Collin Quaner.

MacPherson would level with 12 minutes remaining after being supplied by McGrath. He fired into the top right corner from fully 25 yards out. But that wouldn’t be the goal of the night. Greg Kiltie volleyed home at a Burke corner just three minutes later.

That, though, wasn’t an end to the drama. Quaner, the German who had missed an absolute sitter in the 2-1 loss at Hampden, then equalised from close range two minutes after that.