Firhill passed an early pitch inspection following the cold weather that battered Scotland over the past few days. Partick Thistle controlled much of the first half but failed to turn that dominance into chances.
Paul Cairney was the first to threaten as he skipped through the Raith defence before unleashing a shot just inside the box on eight minutes, but he pulled his shot wide of the far post.
Cairney again was the thorn in the side of the Raith defence, when on 14 minutes he flighted in a great cross from the right hand side to Kris Doolan, but the Thistle forward could not get enough on the ball and it went wide of the Raith goal.
Raith had provided very little as an attacking force for much of the half, but on the half hour mark John Baird latched onto a loose ball inside the Jags penalty box, but keeper Scott Fox managed to turn the ball out for a corner.
The first half was bereft of many clear-cut chances on goal as both sides went in at the break honours even.
Into the second half and the home side were once again looking dangerous, eight minutes in and there was a half-hearted appeal for a penalty for Thistle after Paul Paton claimed to have been shoved to the ground, but referee Mike Tumilty didn’t bat an eyelid and play carried on.
Jackie McNamara’s side went close again as a cross from the left by Aaron Sinclair found Kris Doolan in the Rovers box, but McGurn in the Rovers goal was equal to the Thistle forward’s shot.
And then the moment of controversy that decided the match. Raith were awarded a corner and from that set piece they took the lead through John Baird. Scott Fox did well to save the initial header from Hill but Baird was on hand – literally – to knock the ball home. The celebrations were cut short as the linesman’s flag went up for an infringement, but after the assistant and referee Mike Tumilty consulted one another, the goal stood much to the delight of the visitors.
That decision led to Jackie McNamara questioning the referee’s decision and Tumilty sent the Thistle manager to the stand.
That goal signalled Raith to sit back and defend their lead with time-wasting the order of the day from McGlynn’s men.
Thistle’s stand out player once again, Paul Cairney, had the chance to level the scores 15 minutes from time with a superb strike but McGurn turned the ball round the post and out for a corner.
As the clock ticked down, Thistle pressed forward to find an equaliser and O’Donnell tee’d up a cross for Erskine to latch onto but his header towards goal was well dealt with McGurn who managed to get a hand to the ball and turn it round the post for a corner.
Raith held on for all three points thanks to Baird’s controversial winner
After the match Thistle manager Jackie McNamara commented: “Everybody is angry, the fans, the players and obviously the management team. We are angry with the way it’s panned out and I don’t think we deserved to lose that match. I thought there was only one team who wanted to win it and I think that everyone in the stadium could see that it was a handball.
“The referee has overruled the linesman and obviously I got sent to the stand because of that, a bit frustrating.”
Asked why he was sent to the stand, McNamara added: “I said to him [the referee]that the linesman seen it, the linesman’s put his flag up and he’s overruled the linesman. I asked the linesman did you tell him, he said ‘yea I told him it was a handball’.
According to McNamara, the referee explained that he thought the ball had ‘hit the head of their player’.
Raith manager John McGlynn commented: “It was a very hard-fought win. It’s what you’ve got to do to win football matches, you’ve got to work exceptionally hard and that’s what the players did.
“They kept their shape very very well, we were hard to beat, which was exactly what we had to do. We got three points, we go away with the points, we’ve kept a clean sheet and the league table looks a lot better tonight. Delighted.”
On the controversial winner, McGlynn stated: “As far as I am concerned it’s a goal, I am about 60-70 yards away from it, they are a lot closer than I am.”
Goalscorer John Baird admitted after the match that: “It’s connected with me [the ball], my head and with my hand. I’ve went out stretching to get it, I’ve not went out like a Maradona and went to flick it into the goal with my hand like a blatant cheat. I’ve actually went to header it and it’s clipped my hand and went in.”
Partick: Fox, Paton, Balatoni, Archibald (Scott Robertson 76), Sinclair, Cairney, Rowson, O’Donnell, Doolan, Craig Dargo (Erskine 46), Elliot (Stewart 75). Subs Not Used: Scully, Bannigan.
Raith: McGurn, Donaldson, Hill, Ellis, Dyer (Jamie Walker 88), Allan Walker, Murray, Davidson (Williamson 75), Smith, Baird, Hamill. Subs Not Used: Roy, Holt, Reynolds.
Ref: Mike Tumilty