A moment of Morton magic in an otherwise even encounter meant Raith Rovers failed to make up ground on Partick Thistle in the play-off race.
Robbie Muirhead scored a well-worked goal midway through the second half to inflict another defeat on Rovers after their midweek misery at Dunfermline and leave them six points adrift of the fourth-placed Jags.
The Stark’s Park hosts had chances of their own but were denied by off-target finishing and a couple of fine saves from Ton stopper Jack Hamilton.
Rovers manager John McGlynn said Morton were hard to play against because of the proliferation of long throws, free kicks and corner kicks, which was evident in the early stages.
However, the game settled and Rovers passed the ball well and created chances, he said, adding that Ton scorer Muirhead had taken his goal extremely well.
“In the second half, I thought it was all us. We totally controlled the second half,” said the boss. “But in football, it doesn’t matter – it’s all about putting the ball in the back of the net. We didn’t do that and, unfortunately, we are licking our wounds.”
Morton had a couple of headed attempts which cleared the crossbar, from a free kick and a corner after six minutes.
After eight minutes, Raith’s Matej Poplatnik delivered a stylish flick into the path of the advancing Ross Matthews but the attack was mopped up.
Lewis Strapp sent an inswinging corner into the Rovers box after 12 minutes, which caused some danger, but the ball would not fall kindly for ex-Rover Gozie Ugwu or his team mates.
On 16 minutes, Rovers fans were certain Ethon Varian had been fouled going forward but referee Matthew MacDermid waved play on and the move turned into a Morton attack.
Brian McLean fed Strapp down the left but Gary Oliver was unable to control his good cross into the box.
Frankie Musonda sent over a 20th-minute cross from the right for Rovers but on-form striker Poplatnik spooned this one high over the bar.
Two minutes later, Varian extracted a very fine save from Hamilton with a shot from the edge of the box.
Following a good move involving Musonda, Sam Stanton, Ross Matthews and Greig Young, another opportunity came Rovers’ way on 31 minutes as Stanton sent in a swerving, curling left-foot shot which was beaten away by Hamilton. Reghan Tumilty, Musonda and Varian were part of the build-up to this one, while another Morton effort from a set piece went over the Raith bar shortly afterwards.
The closest thing to a goal came in 36 minutes when a ball was played into the Morton box and Varian’s header came back to him off the crossbar, after which Hamilton gathered the Irishman’s close-range follow-up.
Cameron Blues was the first name in referee MacDermid’s book after 38 minutes for a challenge on Stanton of Raith.
In the second half, Tumilty set off on a powerful run down the right after a mistake in midfield by McLean but the Morton rearguard blocked his cross.
Raith captain Kyle Benedictus was shown a yellow card on 56 minutes for halting a run by Strapp, who needed treatment, but Morton could do nothing with the useful-looking free kick opportunity.
Ugwu showed a neat touch in the box and made room for himself on 59 minutes but a deflection took the venom out of his shot, which was easily gathered by MacDonald.
The breakthrough, however, came on 65 minutes when Strap played a ball over the top of the defence to the right channel and Robbie Muirhead eased around Benedictus before scoring with a very good angled left-foot shot.
Poplatnik hit the side netting from close range a couple of minutes later as Raith looked to get back, while they sent on Ethan Ross and Dario Zanatta in favour of Spencer and Varian respectively – followed closely by Aidan Connolly for Greig Young.
Subs Ross and Zanatta almost fashioned a 76th-minute equaliser for Raith, as Ross crossed to Zanatta following an excellent run but the Canadian’s shot was superbly saved by Hamilton.
The Greenock ‘keeper also saved a good effort from Tumilty, while a Benedictus header flashed wide as Morton held out.
Ton boss Dougie Imrie said after the game his side had been motivated to beat Rovers after some comments from the Raith camp which he found “disrespectful” towards the team and the football club.
However, he would not elaborate on what the remarks were or who had made them.
Raith Rovers: MacDonald, Tumilty, Musonda, Benedictus, Matthews, Spencer (Ross 69), McKay, Stanton, Varian (Zanatta 71), Young (Connolly 73), Poplatnik. Subs not used – Thomson (GK), Arnott.
Greenock Morton: Hamilton, Strapp (Russell 69), McLean, McEntee, Oliver (McGrattan 62), Blues, Muirhead (Lyon 87), Ugwu, Brandon (Hynes 87), Wilson, Lithgow. Subs not used – Bysouth (GK), Ledger, Jacobs, Easdale, King.
Referee: Matthew MacDermid.