Between them, St Mirren and Hibs had managed one win in their previous 13 league games. The muted fans of both teams presumably came not in hope, but in expectation – expecting to be disappointed.

Their feelings were well founded, with the players putting on a display devoid of confidence and imagination. The away side were at least rewarded for their trip to Paisley with all three points, snatching victory with the only goal of the game.

The home team knew a defeat, coupled with a result for St Johnstone, could see them dragged well and truly into the relegation mire. While this was not the performance of a side fighting for their lives, the team on a five-game losing streak did take the initiative for much of the game.

Stephen Robinson’s men provided the only two pieces of goalmouth action in the opening period. Half an hour in, Jay Henderson, who injected some urgency into the home team’s play after coming on as an early substitute, whipped a cross into the centre. Eamonn Brohpy got a glancing touch at the near post but his effort was saved by Matt Macey. Paul McGinn reacted quicker than Curtis Main to clear. Brophy, who later went off injured, also saw a header comfortably saved.

Hibs, meanwhile, tried to put on a brave face following back-to-back defeats to Hearts and the sudden sacking of Shaun Maloney – his brief reign symptomatic of Scottish football’s forlorn attempts to rediscover what was once a fertile breeding ground for top-notch managers.

It was a game punctuated by injury-enforced changes and in which players, lacking in belief and ambition, were so concerned with shielding the ball they regularly forgot to control it. As a result, the kind of fluency which might lead to a chance was almost totally absent.

But with just over 15 minutes remaining, Hibs took the lead with just their second effort on target. Finding himself in the unfamiliar position of centre forward, Harry Clarke did well to bring down a high ball on the edge of the St Mirren box. He tussled with defenders before the ball squirmed through to the onrushing Ewan Henderson. He broke free into the area and took his time before measuring a finish past Alnwick from a tight angle.

St Mirren almost replied in kind three minutes later. Scott Tanser smacked the crossbar after catching a dropping ball sweetly. The home team pushed in vain in the closing stages, continuing their doomed attempts to truly trouble the Hibs goalkeeper.

Fittingly, Hibs ended the match by spurning a golden chance to making the result more comprehensive. Sylvester Jasper broke away on the counter in added time to tee up Josh Campbell, who ballooned the ball over the crossbar.

While St Johnstone failed to make up three points on St Mirren, Robinson knows his nosediving team, who are also facing an injury crisis, remain in serious danger of relegation.

“They [Hibs] had one chance and it’s one goal,” he said. “We hit the bar, it’s just not going our way at the moment. But I said to the boys that I’ll take the criticism as results haven’t been good enough since I came in.

“But we’ve got 14 or 15 fit players fighting and scrapping and I’m confident we’ll get over the line.”

Asked if he believes his side has what it takes to stay up ahead of next week’s pivotal clash against St Johnstone, Robinson responded: “Yeah I certainly think we do. I’ve no doubts about that.”

Gray, who was celebrating his team’s first league win since February, was relieved to see his side edge clear of the relegation battle. Yet he admitted the game wasn’t the easiest on the eye. “I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, no. I enjoyed winning and that’s the most important thing.”

The interim manager added his own future is “irrelevant” as he remained tight-lipped on any possible ambitions of taking on the job permanently.