SECOND-HALF goals from Lionel Ainsworth and Elliot Frear secured Motherwell’s top-flight status for a 33rd consecutive season after a 3-1 victory over Kilmarnock.

Ainsworth netted with a brilliant free-kick from a tight angle before Frear scored on the breakaway to move Motherwell six points ahead of second-bottom Hamilton, who lost 3-2 against Ross County.

Carl McHugh had given Motherwell a lead inside a minute but Kilmarnock, playing with the freedom of a team who had already secured safety, came back well and levelled through Adam Frizzell.

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Hamilton were already a goal down in Dingwall by the time Motherwell kicked off and the mood around Fir Park was further lifted when Frear won a corner seconds later. The home players congregated beyond the back post but McHugh broke off towards the front past and met Frear’s low delivery, sweeping it into the bottom corner.

Killie quickly settled though and Jordan Jones began to cause all sorts of problems down the left, first starting the move which ended with the unmarked Dean Hawkshaw shooting well over from 20 yards.

The visitors levelled in the 17th minute following another move from the same side. David Ferguson took the sting out of Jones’ cross but Keith Lasley mis-controlled and Frizzell placed a shot inside the post.

Ferguson was booked for a foul on Jones and was skinned by the former Middlesbrough player moments later with Russell Griffiths saving at his near post.

Greg Taylor was at the heart of the action as Motherwell regained the lead within eight minutes of the restart. The full-back was booked for what looked a fair tackle on Frear just outside the edge of the box. As everyone waited for a cross from the free-kick, Ainsworth powered a swerving drive into the far corner past a stunned Jamie MacDonald.

MacDonald soon got a fingertip to Cadden’s low cross to deny Moult a tap-in and Kilmarnock again recovered well from conceding as they began to dominate possession.

The tension eased as the home fans celebrated Ross County taking the lead and there was breathing space for the hosts in the 78th minute when Lionel Ainsworth fed Moult, whose ball inside found Frear in yards of space. The winger rounded MacDonald and netted his first goal for the club.

The celebrations continued until after the final whistle.