Ben McPherson returned to the starting line-up with Aaron Healy moving to the bench with Louis Longridge, who was making his 100th appearance for the Spiders, adopting a midfield role with Jack Thomson in central defence.
Head Coach Robin Veldman and his backroom team occupied the traditional ‘away’ Technical Area as his side kicked off with an early spell of home possession ending with a quick Ayr raid up the park that Callan McKenna took charge of to snuff out the danger.
Queen’s created danger of their own on four minutes when a dash and a pass across the pitch from Dom Thomas freed Tommy Robson who sent Jack Turner scampering into the box with his low cross finding no takers.
Hampden was stunned a minute later when Ayr took the lead directly from a corner. Charlie Fox cut out a cross to concede the set-piece on the hosts’ left and Logan Chalmers in-swinging dead ball eluded everyone as it found its way into the net.
McKenna was out of his goal again on 11 minutes as Ahkeem Rose chased a long ball with an offside flag also ending away hopes of putting more pressure on the home goal.
A minute later a lightning raid did bring a second for Ayr after an attacking header from Fox was scooped up by Charlie Albinson who quickly sent Jamie Murphy away on the left. The experienced wide-man travelled deep into the home half before sliding a cross across the turf that was perfect for Chalmers to crack in.
Skipper Thomas tried to get his side back into things from the edge of the Ayr box on 17 minutes however he was crowded out just as he was about to shoot.
Four minutes later Spong got a long distance shot off with Albinson having to move swiftly to grab the ball after parrying the initial effort.
Hepburn fired over from 20 yards on 24 minutes as Queen’s enjoyed their best period in the game so far.
That best period got even better four minutes later when a Spong pass picked out Thomas on the right flank. Thomas slipped in a charging Longridge and his cut-back from the by-line was perfect for PATON to slam past Albinson.
Unfortunately, on 32 minutes a Queen’s Park raid was again halted by the Honest Men to devastating effect as the visitors pounced on a loose pass 30 yards from their own goal and Murphy led the charge before picking out Rose who side-stepped his way into the box before sliding a shot past McKenna.
Thomas’ trickery took him into the Ayr box three minutes from the break however the visiting defence did a fine job of crowding him out with Hepburn unable to capitalise on the loose ball.
The two-goal deficit became three a minute from the break when a misplaced pass was pounced on by Rose and he returned the favour with a low cross to Murphy who flicked in the fourth.
Half time – Queen’s Park 1 Ayr United 4
Veldman made two changes at the break with Will Tizzard and Alex Bannon coming on for Fox and Turner.
Tizzard was involved early with a pass to Thomas and he fed Thomson, who had been restored to a midfield berth, 25 yards out with his shot clearing Ayr’s goal.
The game became 4-2 on 52 minutes with a terrific solo effort from HEPBURN who dribbled past two Ayr men and then fired high into the top corner from 19 yards.
Two minutes later disaster struck as possession was given away and Anton Dowds was released by Chalmers and he picked a spot behind McKenna and found it.
Hepburn came close to scoring another fine goal on 57 minutes when he repeated his fine dribble only to see his shot crash against the bar with Albinson well-beaten.
Thomas won a corner on the hour mark and took it himself with his delightfully flighted ball bouncing in the six-yard box and then flashing wide.
Healy made a positive impression just after coming midway through the second half with a darting run on the right wing with Thomas winning a corner shortly with a similar charge.
Paton looped in a fine header from a deep Thomas cross on 73 minutes however an offside flag cut short the celebrations.
Ayr come close with 12 minutes left as Nick McAllister found space before curling a shot over with Veldman turning to youth for his next two substitutes with Liam McLeish coming on along with debutant Lucas McCormick.
The duo were involved quickly as they set up Thomas and then Thomson for shots that the Ayr defence were able to deal with.
McLeish and McCormick combined again with five minutes left with the latter’s cross prompting appeals for a penalty for handball however referee Dickinson was unmoved.
Bannon showed perfect calmness in the last minute as he mopped up an Ayr raid with Fraser Bryden lurking just behind him.
Queen’s Park – Callan McKenna, Ben McPherson (Aaron Healy 66), Jack Thomson, Charlie Fox (Will Tizzard 46), Tommy Robson, Jack Spong (Liam McLeish 80), Louis Longridge, Jack Turner (Alex Bannon 46), Barry Hepburn (Lucas McCormick 80), Dom Thomas, Ruari Paton.
Unused substitutes – Calum Ferrie (G/k), Cameron Bruce, Ricky Waugh, Patrick Jarrett.
Ayr United – Charlie Albinson, Nick McAllister, Frankie Musonda, Sean McGinty, Paddy Reading, Logan Chalmers (Paul Smith 87), Jack Young (Fraser Bryden 87), Roy Syla, Jamie Murphy (Jack Senga 79), Ahkeem Rose (Francis Amartey 67), Anton Dowds (Mark McKenzie 67).
Unused substitutes – Robbie Mutch (G/k), Elicha Ahui, Finn Ecrepont, George Stanger.
Referee – David Dickinson