For the first time this season, the sight of the Ladbrokes Premiership table will not fill Dundee supporters with dread.
The Dark Blues climbed out of the relegation zone for the only time since August after coming from behind to beat ten-man Livingston.
It took a stunning Scott Wright free-kick seven minutes from time to seal the victory after Andrew Nelson annulled Craig Halkett’s opener – which arrived just four minutes after the hosts were reduced to ten men following Shaun Byrne’s red card. His high challenge on Andy Dales was deemed reckless.
There was also controversy just moments before Wright struck after Lions substitute Steven Lawless was booked by referee Greig Aitken for simulation inside the area, a decision described as a “howler” by home manager Gary Holt.
“It’s nice [being out of the bottom two], but it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re out the bottom two in May,” said Dundee boss Jim McIntyre, whose side climbed up to tenth on goal difference at Hamilton’s expense. “There are going to be ups and downs, the three teams are battling and look at St Mirren today going up to Aberdeen and picking up a point.
“It’s great for confidence but you can be back in it next week. Until you put a run of victories together then you have to concentrate on the next game.”
The magnitude of McIntyre’s recent squad overhaul was highlighted by the fact that not a single member of the side that collapsed to a 4-0 defeat at the Tony Macaroni Arena in his dugout debut only four months ago started on Saturday.
Every goal came from a dead-ball situation on that harrowing afternoon and it was another set-play move that left Dundee exposed as Halkett gave the Lions the lead after 18 minutes – Livingston’s first goal in some 469 minutes of action.
With a man advantage, McIntyre’s side should have opened the scoring just 60 seconds earlier but Wright blazed a left-footed strike over with the goal at his mercy after being found by Nelson.
The long throw of Alan Lithgow again proved a valuable weapon for Livingston at the goal, with the ball breaking to Halkett, who squeezed a half-volley into the net at the back post.
Dundee remained wasteful both in and outside of the box for the rest of the half, Nelson and Andy Dales among those needing to calibrate their sights.
Former Sunderland marksman Nelson, however, brought Dundee level with a 54th-minute looping header from Wright’s delivery.
The Tayside outfit should have been ahead on the hour mark but substitute Paul McGowan fired wide following a delightful pass from James Horsfield.
Despite their numerical inferiority and dwindling energy levels, Livingston continued to look a threat on the counter, particularly with the pace of Ryan Hardie as an outlet.
There was further drama to come. After Lawless was booked for diving despite appearing to be clipped by Jesse Curran, on-loan Aberdeen playmaker Wright swept a stunning free-kick into the top corner from 20 yards to settle this pulsating match.
“It was an outstanding free-kick from Scott and he was at the heart of the first goal, too,” added McIntyre.
“He is a brilliant boy to work with and I spoke to [Aberdeen manager] Derek McInnes about him and he said Scott always stayed behind to do extra.”
While unable to pass a definite judgment on the sending off, Holt was left in no doubt about the game’s turning point.
He said: “It’s a stonewall penalty at a crucial point in the game.
“If they can’t get decisions right then what chance have you got?
“He’s made a howler in my eyes and hopefully we get some back over the season.”