Hamilton’s seven-year stay in the Scottish Premiership is all but over after a 2-1 defeat by Ross County in their relegation battle in Dingwall.
After a slow start to the encounter, Scott McMann’s free-kick opener for bottom-side Accies after 26 minutes was cancelled out two minutes later by Blair Spittal’s drive.
County substitute Charlie Lakin’s terrific strike in the 70th minute gave the home side a crucial win to leave Brian Rice’s team three points behind second-bottom Kilmarnock but with a massively inferior goal difference of 18 with one fixture remaining.
Hamilton host Kilmarnock on Sunday while the Staggies, three points ahead of Killie, are at Motherwell and need a point to avoid the relegation play-off spot.
It was always going to be a tough task for perennial battlers Hamilton.
Rice, serving a touchline ban along with his long-standing friend, County boss John Hughes, had asked his players to take the fight to the last day of the league season.
Skipper Brian Easton had recovered from a knee injury and replaced Kyle Munro who dropped to the bench while County were unchanged from the side which beat Dundee United 2-0 in their last outing.
Hamilton defender Aaron Martin and County midfielder Stephen Kelly were both booked by referee Willie Collum within the first three minutes as he tried to set the boundaries.
Accies midfielder Ross Callachan also picked up a yellow card before the game burst into life with two goals in two minutes.
After County’s Jordan Tillson fouled McMann just outside the box, the Accies wing-back dusted himself down and sent the free-kick under the wall and low past Staggies ‘keeper Ross Laidlaw.
Hamilton’s lead did not last long.
As County pressed their visitors back, attacker Spittal took a pass from striker Jordan White at the edge of the box and smartly fired past Hamilton ‘keeper Kyle Gourlay.
Play raced from end to end.
After a mistake by Ross County playmaker Michael Gardyne in his own half on the half-hour mark, Callachan drove against the outside of the post.
Accies had edged the first 45 minutes but the home side started the second half brightly, Spittal screwing a powerful shot wide of the target early in the second half.
Back came the visitors and McMann sneaked in at the back post to head a Jamie Hamilton cross over the bar, before Callachan did the same from a McMann cross.
Lakin came on for injured left-back Leo Hjelde in the 65th minute and soon made his indelible mark.
Taking a pass from White wide on the left he took no time in striking a glorious left-footed shot across Gourlay and into the corner of the net.
Accies tried to rally. Striker David Moyo headed a cross from substitute Nathan Thomas, who had replaced Easton, over the bar.
Hamilton stepped up the pressure but left gaps and County substitute Harry Paton raced clear only to hit the side-netting.
While Accies are doomed, County will go to the last game of the season looking to avoid a play-off spot.
Ross County finish their Scottish Premiership season with a trip to Motherwell on Sunday, while Hamilton host Kilmarnock. Both games kick-off at 12pm.