A stunning goal from Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland, scored from just inside the St Johnstone half, wasn’t enough to separate the Tayside duo.
It was a strike worthy of winning any game – and a goal of the season contender – but Shankland, his teammates and opponents had to settle for yet another draw between the sides.
There have now been three in the Premierhsip and one in the Betfred Cup, albeit United won the bonus penalty shootout.
Louis Appere’s fine finish got United off to a flying start after just nine minutes but Saints levelled when frontman Guy Melamed nodded home his first goal for his club on 16 minutes.
What a goal by Lawrence Shankland… 52.98 yards out 😲🚀 pic.twitter.com/gzMfmQqmwb
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) January 13, 2021
A lovely glancing header from Chris Kane then gave the visitors a 2-1 lead on 38 minutes.
Those were pretty decent but were just the warm-up acts for Shankland’s fantastic finish on 53 minutes, which saw the Scotland striker lob visitors’ keeper Zander Clark from just inside the Saints’ half close to the home dugout.
The match gave the Tangerines the first opportunity to pay tribute at home to legendary boss Jim McLean, whose death was announced on Boxing Day.
There was a minute’s applause held before kick-off in honour of United’s greatest-ever manager.
Michael O’Halloran missed out for the visitors through suspension and Saints gaffer Callum Davidson made four changes to his starting line-up after a 1-1 draw at Ross County last time out, with Liam Gordon, Liam Craig, David Wotherspoon and Melamed all given the nod. An unnamed Perth player was unavailable after testing positive for Covid-19.
United selected the same team that finished the goalless draw at Aberdeen on January 2. That meant young Lewis Neilson retained his place at the back, while Dillon Powers stayed in midfield after replacing the crocked Peter Pawlett at Pittodrie, There was a spot on the bench for frontman Marc McNulty as he came back from injury.
The McDiarmid men were first to threaten the opposition goal on seven minutes when Chris Kane’s cross to the back post was aimed at Murray Davidson, who got his boot to the ball couldn’t trouble keeper Benjamin Siegrist.
The Tangerines soon settled, though, and took the lead with a wonderfully-worked opener just two minutes later.
Nicky Clark was the supplier after the defence sat off and the Tangerines’ forward created room on the right side of the penalty area. He then cut back perfectly for Appere, whose sidefooted strike took a deflection on its way into the net.
The visitors were on the front foot quickly, however, and Melamed tried but failed to beat Siegrist with a lob.
The leveller was just delayed slightly, though, with St Johnstone’s Israeli striker getting off the mark for the McDiarmid men to make it 1-1 on 16 minutes. His header was a powerful one off David Wotherspoon’s corner that seemed to slip through Siegrist’s legs and nestle in the back of the net.
Melamed was in the mood and had another effort saved by Siegrist before a poor clearance from Saints at the other end fell to United’s Shankland, who just found the angle for his strike to be too tight.
Shankland was threatening again on the half-hour when he seemed to have a clear path to goal before Ali McCann, playing at right-back, did superbly to nick the ball off his feet before he could test goalie Clark.
Unlike the other games between the sides this season, this match was a open affair and Saints scored again on 38 minutes.
Kane was the man on target this time as the hosts failed to deal with another ball into the box. Melamed worked some magic out on the left before finding Wotherspoon, who twisted and turned before sending a brilliant delivery into the box that was nodded into the United net by Kane.
That was all just a taster, however, for Shankland’s stunner.
With the clock striking 53 minutes, there seemed to be little danger as United’s Appere made an interception near the halfway line. He quickly played the ball to his right to Shankland, who instead of racing up the line as expected looked up then embarrassed Clark with a fabulous chip.
With the contest tied at 2-2, the home side brought on Luke Bolton for Neilson and, a bit later, McNulty for Appere.
If the Perth men were shocked by that incredible equaliser they didnt show it and kept looking for the winner, as did United.
Wotherspoon, who was having a fine match for St Johnstone, went for goal with a freekick on the left edge of the penalty box and Siegrist had to punch the ball away.
Stevie May and Scott Tanser came on for St Johnstone, replacing Kane and Callum Booth.
The two subs nearly teamed up for a goal, with May driving into the United half before releasing Tanser, who drilled his shot low and inches wide of the far post.
Tannadice then saluted Jim McLean for a second time, with another round of applause held on 83 minutes to mark the year of United’s Premier League title win under the great man’s leadership.
Both teams kept plugging away until the end but just couldn’t be separated from each other.
Dundee United: Siegrist, L. Smith, Powers, Connolly, Reynolds, Clark, Robson, Harkes, Shankland, Appere (McNulty 65), Neilson (Bolton 55). Subs not used: Deniz, Sporle, Pawlett, Fotheringham, Watson, Hutchinson, K. Smith.
St Johnstone: Clark, McCart, Gordon, Davidson, Kane (May 76), Wotherspoon (Conway 89), Melamed (Hendry 89), McCann, Rooney, Craig, Booth (Tanser 76). Subs not used: Parish, Bryson, Denham, Ferguson.
Referee: Colin Steven.