The Fir Park outfit offer cut-price admission at Fir Park for all but the Old Firm's visits, but the team give nothing away and looked to have secured a well-earned point. Yet Billy Davies' men missed several second- half chances, and this proved to their cost when McGowne's stunning shot from distance snatched an unlikely Kilmarnock win with just four minutes remaining.
The visitors had moved ahead early in the first half through the familiar figure of Ally McCoist, but they lost momentum after Motherwell levelled through Ged Brannan's well-taken header.
Kilmarnock held out, though, when under pressure and their reward was a victory which kept them in second place in the Scottish Premier League, tucked in between the leaders, Rangers, and the champions, Celtic.
The visitors should have moved ahead after just eight minutes when Gary Holt's header fell invitingly for Paul Wright inside the six-yard box with time and space at his disposal. However, the striker was unable to connect with the power he wanted and his loose connection enabled Stevie Woods to gather.
After 15 minutes, Kilmarnock were ahead, Ian Durrant releasing his former Rangers colleague McCoist, who defeated Woods with an angled drive just inside the far post.
McCoist threatened again in Kilmarnock's next attack with a near post effort clutched by Woods, but the Ayrshire outfit were unable to build on their lead. After 27 minutes, they paid the price as Motherwell levelled when Michel Doesburg's precise cross from the left picked out Brannan, whose firm downward header levelled the scores.
Midway through the second half, Motherwell's Owen Coyle should have done better when presented with a genuine opening, but he dragged his attempt badly wide of goal when in position to do more.
With 11 minutes remaining, McCoist headed in Holt's cross, but the flag had already gone up for offside before he had even made contact. Kilmarnock seemed to have settled for a point, but from nowhere McGowne emerged to strike a blow from deep that left Motherwell down and out at the last.
Motherwell: Woods; McGowan, Brannan (Adams, 81), Valakari, Coyle, Michels, Thomas, McCulloch, Doesburg, Matthaei, Nevin. Substitutes not used: May, Craigan, Ramsey, Bannister (gk).
Kilmarnock: Marshall; MacPherson, Montgomerie, McGowne, Reilly, Holt, Wright, Durrant, Mitchell, McCoist, Baker. Substitutes not used: Mahood, Roberts, Lauchlan, Burke, Strain (gk).
Referee: K Clark (Paisley).Reuse content