JUST when it seemed Alloa were on the cusp of dragging themselves out of the relegation mire, Partick Thistle brought them back down to earth with a bang.

The Wasps could have no complaints as they were outplayed by Gary Caldwell’s men in the Glasgow sunshine in a gruelling 90 minutes where the home side’s dormant quality eventually told.

In the end, it was former Celtic star Scott McDonald who decided the match as he thundered a free kick past the desperate reach of Neil Parry to turn the game - and the fight for survival - on its head.

The Australian’s ability had been evident throughout and he had increasingly looked likely of exerting the same kind of influence over the game as he had when the sides met back in February.

And when Jon Robertson was forced to bring down Joe Cardle to stop him from entering the box, McDonald duly obliged by picking out the top corner.

Substitute Cardle’s strike started the fightback from the hosts after just two second half minutes, cancelling out Jack Aitchison’s beautiful opener for the Wasps.

Looking back on this one, perhaps the most frustrating thing for Jim Goodwin will be that in two games away to their nearest challengers, the Wasps have been caught cold moments after the restart and failed to deal with fresh impetus of desperation from Falkirk and now Thistle.

In truth, the Wasps were second best for much of the match aside from a ten minute spell in which Aitchison notched his first goal in black and yellow.

After weathering an early Thistle storm, Alloa won a corner of their own. Liam Dick picked up a loose ball in the box, laid it off to the youngster, who put it beyond the reach of Jamie Sneddon and sent the 220 Wasps fans in the Colin Weir stand into dreamland.

The warning signs were already there for the part-timers, however, and even before the teenager had silenced the raucous Firhill crowd, Graham had been forced to flick the ball over his own crossbar and Parry had later sprung to his right to block Craig Slater’s stinging drive.

Rather than taking the sting out of Thistle, the goal only seemed to will them on and they put the Alloa rearguard under relentless pressure for large spells of the first half. As the Wasps dropped deeper and deeper - Aitchison was basically playing as a winger when the half time whistle blew - Parry had to race off his line to deny Kris Doolan netting the leveller.

By the time Cardle netted, Thistle could smell blood. Gary Harkins - who was also brought on at the break - grew increasingly influential in between puffs of a cigar.

He tested Parry with an effort before Dick nodded away a later curler from the veteran. Graham had to be alert to block Blair Spittal’s follow up as the Wasps struggled desperately to cling on for a point.

Their resistance was eventually broken, of course, after the substitutes combined and McDonald showed all the class of his years; how Alloa will be glad to see the back of him for the season.

But, unsurprisingly as the clock began to race towards the 90, palpable nerves spread around Firhill and the Wasps sensed a chance to steal a point. With Goodwin having gone for broke with his changes, it was now or never.

Dario Zanatta, now up against makeshift right back Steven Saunders, was causing his opponent palpitations every time he touched the ball.

But it was two of Goodwin’s substitutes who could have snatched a vital point for Alloa at the death. Kevin Cawley, found by Jon Robertson in the box on the end of a wonderful flowing move, was denied by the desperate foot of Sneddon.

The keeper was at it again just moments later, this time holding onto Jordan Kirkpatrick’s beautifully hit volley; either side of him and the net would surely have bulged.

But Thistle clung on and the Wasps’ relegation fight goes on for another week.