There are defining weekends in title wins and Ross County supporters could be forgiven for believing Saturday was a pivotal one for their club.
County were not at their best but they still had enough to see off a resilient and stubborn Morton thanks to second-half goals from Josh Mullin and Brian Graham.
It was an old-fashioned victory earned by rolling the sleeves up and wearing down a team which had beaten them twice this season, but the Staggies came good and what an important three points this could turn out to be.
The incentive was already there for County following Ayr’s defeat to Falkirk on Friday and an important win became even more significant as news filtered through of Partick Thistle’s late winner against Dundee United.
As a result the gap at the top now stands at eight points. Victory against Falkirk at Victoria Park tomorrow will stretch it to 11.
County won’t admit it but make no mistake, if Stuart Kettlewell and Stevie Ferguson can lead their side to victory tomorrow the title is theirs to lose with only nine games remaining.
County started on the front foot against the Ton and they should have been ahead inside the opening three minutes as Keith Watson timed his run perfectly to meet Josh Mullin’s corner inside the six-yard box only to take a fresh-air swipe at the ball.
Morton did not travel north to sit in, however, and they enjoyed good possession in the County half but without testing Scott Fox in the home goal.
County, despite the absence of injured strikers Billy Mckay and Ross Stewart, carried the greater attacking threat and they had several chances to open the scoring before the break but they could not take any of them.
Mullin’s header was easily saved by Robby McCrorie before Declan McManus missed the best chance of the half when he met Kenny van der Weg’s cross but could not direct his volley on target at the back post.
With Jamie Lindsay and Lewis Spence pulling the strings in midfield, County finished the half as they started it, pushing the Ton back into their own half and Brian Graham had the last chance of the opening 45 when he hit the bar with a header but he was deemed offside when meeting the cross. County, to their credit, maintained their composure and their perseverance paid off 10 minutes into the second half.
Michael Gardyne created the goal, turning away from Reghan Tumilty before crossing for Brian Graham. Morton managed to scramble the ball away but only as far as Mullin who took a touch before shooting past McCrorie from 10 yards for his 10th goal of the season.
Morton responded strongly and put the County backline under pressure but two fine headers from Marcus Fraser prevented an equaliser.
With the visitors committing more players forward the gaps started to appear for Gardyne and Spence and a neat exchange of passes ended with Mullin firing wide.
The Staggies were not to be denied, however, and they claimed the two-goal cushion they craved with 11 minutes remaining.
Substitute Don Cowie had been on the pitch a matter of seconds when he received the ball out wide and his terrific cross found Graham in space and the big striker headed home from close range.