CRAIG SAMSON felt entirely justified in racing over to throw Iain Vigurs to earth as the Caley Thistle midfielder remonstrated furiously with floored St Mirren team-mate Stephen McGinn.

Home midfielder Vigurs earned a second yellow card after the angry flashpoint in a vital, controversy-packed victory for the title-chasing Buddies.

Samson, in contrast, received only a booking for what, from the main stand, looked like a highly-provocative and aggressive act – and one which sparked a huge melee between opposing players.

In the eye of the storm stood referee John McKendrick, complicit in a number of controversial moments including the pivotal penalty award for Saints early in the second half.

But Samson, the former Ross County and Dundee United goalkeeper, argued he had only been protecting his younger team-mate from the home player’s verbal assault.

The 33-year-old former Scotland squad goalkeeper, in brilliant form throughout the 90 minutes, said: “My view is that their player got his face in the face of one of my team-mates while he was lying on his back on the ground.

“I've run over and grabbed him – not pushed him – to get him off my player.

“I'm a senior player and there are younger lads here within the team. We are not coming up here to get bowled over by an older, more experienced team.

“It wasn't a red card [offence]. I held him. It might have been harsh to send Vigurs off but he can't be shouting in the boy's face when he's on the ground.

“It was a good, honest game of football and I thought it was a great three points for us in conditions that weren't good

“In the first half, they were on top but the conditions had a hell of a lot to do with that. The wind was in our face and it was snowing. It was hard to get out of our own third.

“But my job, when we are under pressure, is to make a couple of saves and keep the boys in the game – and I thought we did that superbly as a team.”

Perhaps Samson’s best save of several quality stops came early on as he dived low to his right to turn away a powerful low strike from Liam Polworth.

In terrible wet, icy conditions, Saints had just one clear first half opportunity and squandered it with Lewis Morgan going clean through but slicing his attempt wide.

In all, Caley Thistle racked up eight missed – or saved – chances in the first period and were then undone by a penalty decision that infuriated their manager.

Maginnis managed to leave Gary Warren for dead on the left, before cutting inside along the bye-line where the Saints attacker was challenged by Polworth.

Referee McKendrick, to home protests, pointed to the spot and Ian McShane sent Mark Ridgers the wrong way.

The hosts fought hard to claw a way back, but Vigurs controversial sending off knocked the stuffing out of their challenge.

On the break, Saints put the icing on the game cake as substitute Stelios Demetriou’s clearance saw Gavin Reilly tear off and skip past Coll Donaldson before slamming a shot past Ridgers.

Polworth, still furious long after the final whistle, insisted McKendrick had blundered with the penalty award.

The 23-year-old admitted: "We feel very aggrieved. We got done by something outwith our control. I thought it was a terrible decision. It should never have been a penalty and we were up against it after that.”