Dundee United provided their suffering supporters with some hope for the future as they battled back to earn a draw in this six-goal encounter at Tannadice.
Teenager Justin Johnson’s fine injury-time strike, his first goal for the club, meant caretaker manager Gordon Young stretched his unbeaten run to two games as they prepare for life in the Championship next season.
The managerless Tangerines again gifted goals to the opposition but in their final home match of a strained season they rallied to send their fans home a trifle happier
Already relegated from the top flight, they looked like enduring another dismal evening as first-half goals by Frederic Frans and Kris Doolan seemed to have put Alan Archibald’s visitors on easy street.
However, a second-half own goal by Liam Lindsay pulled United back into contention before Ryan Edwards deflated them with a late header, only for Edward Ofere’s 86th-minute strike to spark a comeback which was sealed by 19-year-old Johnson’s equaliser with virtually the last kick of the ball.
There was no sign of Raith Rovers manager Ray McKinnon, who has been offered the job in the wake of Mixu Paatelainen’s departure, as the hosts kicked off their penultimate fixture amid a sombre atmosphere.
Matt Smith, their teenage striker, and central defender Harry Souttar were both in the starting line-up with an obvious eye on next season’s Championship campaign where they are preparing to run with a drastically reduced wage bill.
For the second game running Young took the reins having helped restore some pride by leading United to a welcome 3-2 win over Inverness in the Highlands the previous Friday, and as early as the second minute they threatened to take the lead.
Simon Murray’s cross from the right picked out Smith and his close-range effort was turned round the post by visiting goalkeeper Ryan Scully for a corner. However, as on so many occasions this season, United were made to pay for not being ruthless in front of goal as Partick went ahead in seven minutes.
It was as simple as you like. James Penrice’s corner was decent and Frans rose unchallenged to power a header past the helpless Eiji Kawashima.
A few minutes later, Murray attempted to haul the hosts level by jinking past two Thistle defenders, and watched as his shot from an angle flashed narrowly past the post.
Steven Lawless’ ball over the top, helped on by David Amoo, should have been dealt with by Sean Dillon but the United defender hesitated and took a touch before making a mess of his attempted clearance.
Needing no invitation to seize upon the mistake, Doolan pounced to take the ball round Kawashima and roll it into the gaping net.
Ofere did have a chance to pull one back for the embattled home team before half-time, but the African shot nowhere near the target, sparking howls of derision from the home fans.
In 67 minutes, though, there was some brief respite as Scott Fraser’s corner was nodded on by Dillon, and Lindsay turned it into his own net.
However, Thistle seemed to kill off any prospect of a comeback with 14 minutes remaining as substitute Mathias Pogba centred for Edwards to head powerfully past Kawashima to restore their two-goal lead.
Ofere, with five minutes left, though smacked home a shot past Scully, prior to substitute Johnson drilling home a low shot in injury time to avoid yet more misery.