Ahead twice and up against 10 men for just over half an hour, the strugglers failed to take anything from the game, and instead of closing the gap on the teams above them, they allowed them to stretch further ahead.
Now nine points adrift of third bottom Hamilton and seven behind the Paisley side, with only nine points left to play for, they are now holding out for three wins from their final three matches.
For a side now on a run of nine losses, even their own manager refused to sugar coat his analysis.
“It was a desperate situation before it’s even more desperate now,” said McIntyre. “It’s going to take favours. But we’ll keep at it. We’ll get ready for next week and do the exact same thing we did today – attack the game and try to get three points.
“We can’t affect elsewhere. All we can do is try and win our game. We certainly put everything into trying to do that today, but ultimately, we’ve not done enough.”
Twice they had the lead, the first coming in the 11th minute when Gboly Ariyibi was caught wrong side of Andrew Nelson and threw himself down in a last gasp effort to halt progress. It resulted in a penalty for the visitors and Martin Woods converted from the spot.
It was the early boost Dundee needed but rather than build on that they showed a fragility perhaps bourne of a season of struggle and allowed Motherwell to equalise within a minute.
David Turnbull was the man to land the blow and while he had options to his right and left the club’s player of the year had a dig himself, which deflected off Nathan Ralph and up and over Seny Dieng and into the net.
Showing character, Dundee managed to regain the lead less than 10 minutes later when Ethan Robson hit a strike on the turn that flew past Mark Gillespie but rather than learn from experience, they again caved all too quickly and gave the home side the chance to restore parity.
When the ball broke to Alex Rodriguez Gorrin on the edge of the area, Robson was sleeping and although that dig was blocked, Dundee couldn’t clear the danger and young James Scott was able top squeeze his effort in at the near post.
Continuing the game of tit for tat, it was Motherwell who grabbed the next goal, when Ariyibi found himself in too much space when the ball was deflected towards him in the area and he stroked the ball home.
That was in the 49th minute but Dundee hit back quickly this time as Ralph bulleted a Woods corner into the net.
The quality was lacking but with so much at stake the Dens Park side kept at it and were given a boost when Gorrin was sent off for a second yellow card in the 58th minute.
They had another reprieve when the assistant referee overruled a penalty decision late on, arguing that Turnbull had carried the ball out of play before Genseric Kusunga handled the cutback. It looks like it was the wrong decision and could have had massive ramifications on the relegation tussle but McIntyre’s men couldn’t capitalise on that good fortune, with Kenny Miller, Craig and Jesse Curran all failing to convert opportunities.
“We should have had a penalty for the handball,” insisted Stephen Robinson, “because I’ve seen the footage but I’ll forgive the referee because we won. It was a huge call but the officials got away with one today.”
They can thank Turnbull for that. With the game in stoppage time the youngster showed his class and composure and when his initial right foot shot came back off the bar, he had time and the ability to make a better stab of things with his left to win the match.
“He’s a superb footballer and a joy to watch. In terms of what he can do,” said his manager. “He was probably only 6/10 today but he still scored twice and was the best player on the pitch. For me he’s the Young Player of the Year by a long way. Yes, I’m biased but he just needs to keep his feet on the ground.”
His feet are firmly planted but as news of late equalisers for St Mirren and Hamilton filtered through it became clear that the ground is crumbling beneath Dundee.