Ray McKinnon’s Dundee United managerial reign got off to a winning start – but only after a dramatic penalty shoot out at Gayfield.
McKinnon was made to sweat as Scott Fraser finally put them through with the winning spot kick after Charlie Telfer, Coll Donaldson, Paul Dixon, and Harry Souttar all scored to leave Liam Callaghan as the fall guy for the hosts with Cammy Bell saving his effort.
Super sub Henri Anier struck with just five minutes left as United seemed set to triumph, but defender Colin Hamilton forced penalties with an injury-time leveller.
United brought a large travelling support up the coast to to the small Angus town as they played their first competitive match since the pain of being relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season.
The visiting fans were in good voice and desperate to erase the memory of going down back in May by hitting the ground running in front of the live cameras.
McKinnon’s new-look side featured summer signings Cammy Bell in goal, Lewis Toshney, Stewart Murdoch and Tope Obadeyi.
But new signing Willo Flood from Aberdeen couldn’t shake off a knock in time to get his fourth stint at the club underway , while on-loan Dons striker Cammy Smith had to settle for a place on the bench.
For Dick Campbell’s League Two hosts, they had former Dundee starlet Bobby Linn in attack, while ex-United kid Ryan McCord sat in midfield and summer signing Bryan Prunty led the line.
And in 15 minutes, the lively Lichties carved out a glorious chance to take the lead.
Linn’s defence-splitting pass set Steven Doris clean through on goal with only Bell to beat, but the former Kilmarnock and Rangers goalie did just enough by dashing off his line to save with his feet.
Then, at the other end, midfieldder Murdoch tried his luck for the visitors with a long-distance drive which fizzed just wide of Robbie Mutch’s right-hand post.
United were eager for an early breakthrough.
In 20 minutes, former Kilmarnock hitman Obadeyi tried his luck by cutting inside and unleashing a low left-foot shot which Lichties keeper Robbie Mutch did well to parry before reacting well to save at the feet of Simon Murray at the rebound.
It was end-to-end stuff and on the half-hour mark, the fired-up hosts had a great chance to take the lead .
Ex-United youngster McCord swept a fine pass out wide to Omar Kader whose cross from the right eluded the entire visiting defence.
Prunty raced towards the edge of the six-yard box but the former Celtic striker just missed making contact by a matter of inches as the chance went abegging.
The Tangerines responded five minutes before the interval through Paul Dixon squared for Simon Murray.
Ex-Arbroath striker Murray seemed poised to break the deadlock, only for on-loan Aberdeen keeper Mutch to defy him with a reflex save, before Scott Fraser curled his effort over from the rebound.
The second-half started with the same tempo as United midfielder Charlie Telfer tried a snap-shot which was blocked by the part-timer’s defence.
In 52 minutes, Dixon threaded a fine ball through to Murray who turned swiftly inside the box, but again Mutch was equal to the task as he foiled the Championship side’s efforts .
Murray was in the thick of the action again midway through the second-half when he unleashed a 25-yard shot which cannoned back off the woodwork with Mutch for once beaten .
It had all the makings of going to a penalty shoot-out as both sides struggled to find a cutting edge.
However, Anier had other ideas as he raced into substitute Smith’s through ball and kept his cool by driving home a shot from 15-yards, much to the delight of McKinnon’s men.
But Hamilton’s late strike ensured more drama in the Angus outpost.