Ayr United manager Ian McCall said it would have been a travesty if his side had not beaten Dunfermline.

Declan McDaid’s 31st minute strike boosted the Honest Men’s play-off hopes and made a considerable dent in the Pars'.

The visitors controlled long spells of the game and the Fife outfit had Ryan Scully to thank after the goalkeeper denied Lawrence Shankland with two fine saves either side of the break.

Stevie Crawford’s side rallied at the end but Ayr held on to climb up to third and move six points clear of fifth-place Dunfermline.

McCall said: “We felt we should have been two, three, four-nothing up and if you don’t kill a team off then you’re going to have a nervous few minutes and we did.

“They had one chance and I thought the boy should have done better and Ross Doohan has made a good save, but it would have been a travesty if we never got the three points.

“I thought Robbie Crawford was head and shoulders above everybody on the pitch and it was a great night for us.

“Our first and second quarter of the season were Championship-winning form and the third quarter was relegation form.

“We’ve got to replicate the first two quarters in the last quarter and it’s a great way to start it with three points.”

Ayr, who climb above Inverness into third, are now looking upwards and have the benefit of six of their final eight matches being played at home.

There was little between the teams in a keenly-contested start and it wasn’t until the 15th minute that that first chance was created. Ayr full-back Liam Smith chased down Mark Kerr’s pass at the byeline and pulled the ball back for McDaid but the winger’s first time shot from 12 yards was blocked by Ryan Williamson, who had tracked the run.

Louis Longridge was keen to make an impression at the other end and after hitting a tame free-kick straight at the Ayr wall, the striker then tried his luck from distance with a fierce shot that sailed just over Doohan’s cross bar.

Former Pars forward Michael Moffat wasted a great chance in the 29th minute when he scooped a left-footed shot over the bar after goalkeeper Scully had spilled a Smith cross. But Ayr broke the deadlock just two minutes later.

McDaid’s low inswinging cross from the right appeared to be intended for Shankland. Scully anticipated a touch that never came and the winger’s effort crept in at the far post.

Some five minutes of additional time were played at the end of the half after Pars midfielder Joe Thomson received treatment for a serious looking knee injury before being stretchered off and deep into the added on time Scully made a fine save to keep out a Shankland shot.

The Ayr striker was denied by Scully again in the 59th minute. Goalkeeper Doohan’s long ball found Shankland in the penalty box but the 23-year-old’s left-footed drive was blocked by the legs of the shot-stopper.

The hosts finished strongly but were unable to find the equaliser.

Danny Devine sliced a volley wide from inside the area before Louis Longridge’s close-range shot was brilliant save by Doohan.

On-loan Aberdeen striker Bruce Anderson also fired just over four 12 yards.

Dunfermline manager Crawford, whose team are five points behind Inverness, said: “I said to the boys that collectively the first half was not good enough. It’s the worst it’s been since I took over. We allowed them to dominate in the first half and it’s not a nice feeling.

"It was a bit too little, too late and we probably didn’t deserve the rub of the green with the chances we created at the end.”

Dunfermline: Scully, Williamson, Devine, Ashcroft, J Longridge, Beadling, Vincent (Todd 74), Thomson (Craigen 45), Higginbotham (El Bakhtaoui 61), L Longridge, Anderson

Substitutes not used: Gill, Durnan, McCann, Blair

Ayr United: Doohan, Smith, Ross, Bell, Harvie, McDaid (Docherty 90), Kerr, Murdoch, Crawford, Shankland (Miller 74), Moffat

Substitutes not used: Hare-Reid, Geggan, Forrest, Cadden, Muirhead

Referee: Gavin Duncan

Attendance: 4,671