Dundee United will spend at least another season in the Championship after they ran out of steam in the Premiership play-off final second leg.
They had performed admirably at times in this end-of-season lottery, beating both Morton and Falkirk on the way to this decider against top-flight team Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
However, the legs eventually tired in the heat as Greg Docherty’s excellent strike on 64 minutes edged the hosts over the line.
They now face another fraught, frustrating and challenging campaign.
The club is not in a good place off the pitch and manager Ray McKinnon will also have to work all the hours to rejig his squad, as players leave and others are brought in like James Keatings and Billy King.
To get back up – as this play-off showed – they will probably have to win the title and that will be easier said than done.
United, who formed up 4-3-1-2, made the most obvious of changes to their line-up, with Wato Kuate shown the door after his escapades on Thursday and Charlie Telfer taking his place in midfield.
Of course, Simon Murray was in his usual spot up front, with the ludicrous booking for simulation under appeal and thus freeing him up to play.
There were places on the Tangerines’ bench for Scott Allardice and Scott Fraser.
Hamilton were without the injured Massimo Donati, Alex D’Acol and Gary Woods, as well as long-term absentee Mikey Devlin.
Darian MacKinnon was suspended but the good news for the hosts was that Dougie Imrie made it despite suffering from a rib injury.
There was a great atmosphere inside the ground in the build-up to kick-off, thanks to the away fans were packed behind the goal and in the mini-stand opposite the tunnel.
The teams came out to the tune of Eye of the Tiger and it was almost a rocky start for Accies on five minutes.
A Blair Spittal corner on the right for United was met on the spin by Tony Andreu’s boot and the shot would have sneaked inside the post had keeper Remi Matthews not been there to save.
There was a scare for United on 10 minutes when Willo Flood gave the ball away to Accies’ Rakish Bingham. He played in Ali Crawford just inside the box but the strike was covered by keeper Cammy Bell.
Andreu had a shot blocked as United broke forward through Murray then Paul Dixon tried his luck from 35 yards when he should have opted to keep the pressure on the home team.
Docherty was booked for Hamilton on 18 minutes for a challenge on Thomas Mikkelsen as United continued to look the hungrier side.
On 24 minutes, Telfer gave possession away and Crawford’s shot was parried by Bell. The ball spun around dangerously in front of the Tangerines’ goal until Dixon got back to clear off the body of Danny Redmond.
The visitors had to stop handing the initiative to Accies but they did it again on 29 minutes when Flood gave away a needless freekick. The ball was played to Crawford and his sweet strike brought a terrific save out of Bell.
Five minutes before the interval, United almost broke the deadlock when first a Telfer cross was nearly deflected in by Scott McMann for an own goal – it was a fine save from Matthews at the postage stamp – then Mikklesen blasted the resultant corner over from a decent position.
On 51 minutes, a period of decent possession football from United ended with Dixon firing a half-volley at Matthews that the keeper held.
Hamilton brought on Louis Longridge for David Templeton three minutes later before United defender Mark Durnan got down well to block Bingham’s low drive.
With 57 minutes on the clock, Bell was the hero for the visitors when he spread himself to brilliantly block Imrie’s close-range shot when it looked like it was about to be 1-0 to Accies.
It maybe wasn’t pretty to watch but it was still edge-of-your-seat stuff as the match went past the hour mark.
Sadly for United they fell behind on 64 minutes when Docherty finally broke their resistance.
The visitors were sitting deep as fatigue finally seemed to get to them and when the ball fell to Docherty 25 yards out he left Bell with no chance as the ball nestled in the back of the net.
The Tangerines had his back before in this play-off campaign but it needed an extra-special effort now.
They tried to get back on level terms when the ball landed at Spittal after goalie Matthews fluffed a clearance but the strike was deflected wide.
The Tannadice men brought on Scott Fraser for Telfer on 71 minutes as they chased the game before Hamilton claimed for a penalty when Bingham fell when trying to reach an Imrie chip inside the goalmouth.
United were still creating chances and Murray fired wide before he tried again in front of goal on 85 minutes, only for Matthews to save.
Deep into stoppage time, Mikkelsen tried an overhead kick but it was easily gathered by Matthews.
The Tannadice players looked out on their feet and it was soon all over as ref Craig Thomson blew the whistle on a difficult season for United and their supporters.
Hamilton: Matthews, Skondras, Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty (Lyon 78), Redmond, Crawford, Gogic, Bingham (Sarris 86), McMann, Templeton (Longridge 54). Subs not used: Jamieson, Watson, Cunningham, Boyd.
Dundee United: Bell, Dillon, Dixon, Durnan, Spittal, Murray, Telfer (Fraser 71), Edjenguele, Flood, Mikkelsen, Andreu. Subs not used: Zwick, Donaldson, Toshney, Nicholls, Robson, Allardice.
Referee: Craig Thomson.