Getting to a cup semi-final isn’t supposed to be easy.
And for St Johnstone the task proved to be awkward in the extreme.
Saints were well below their best in a last-eight contest that was taken all the way to penalties.
They couldn’t find a goal in 90 minutes and then when Shaun Rooney put them in front in extra-time, let a Dunfermline side that refused to accept defeat back into the game with Iain Wilson’s equaliser.
But none of the above matters as a consequence of Zander Clark saving two penalties and Liam Craig scoring the winning one.
Saints are into their first semi in four years.
Callum Davidson has made a point of stressing in recent weeks that he has a squad full of players he can rely on.
And he was true to his word with a team selection that few Saints fans, if any, would have predicted.
In came Rooney, Callum Booth, Murray Davidson and Liam Craig – at the expense of Jamie McCart, Danny McNamara, Craig Bryson and Stevie May.
The tempo Saints started the game at was early vindication of Davidson’s strategy.
The Pars had the benefit of familiarity in their 11 but it was the Premiership side who dictated the play from the first whistle.
There was an inventive corner on seven minutes. Rather than crossing into the crowded box, Craig picked out David Wotherspoon unmarked just outside it. His volley was sweetly struck and on target but struck a Dunfermline leg to stop it getting to keeper Owain Fon Williams.
In this period of Perth dominance there was also a Scott Tanser shot that flew wide and a Rooney glancing header that drifted past the post.
The frustration for Saints – and solace for Dunfermline – was that Fon Williams wasn’t being worked.
In fact, the first goalie to make a save was Clark.
After ex-Saint Aaron Comrie was fouled, Dominic Thomas delivered a left foot free-kick from the right which was more a cross than a shot but, with no outfield players getting a head or boot on it, Clark had to tip it round the post.
Moments later in open play Thomas delivered the sort of ball keepers and centre-backs hate, and wingers beg centre-forwards to attack, but on this occasion it flashed across goal untouched.
Ironically, it was during the hosts’ best spell of the first half that Saints got their best chance to break the deadlock.
On 35 minutes Wotherspoon picked out Davidson unmarked at the back post with a perfectly weighted cross and the one man you would choose to find the net with a header from six yards uncharacteristically got his technique wrong and sent it over the bar.
As they had done in the first half, Saints started the second period brightly, with Chris Kane’s 20-yard shot narrowly going past the right post of Fon Williams.
For all the Perth side’s territorial superiority, there weren’t many good chances to show for it and their next effort on goal was from a set-piece.
Wotherspoon dropped a corner on the head of Liam Gordon but the save for Fon Williams was a simple one.
It was virtually on the hour mark to the second that Davidson made his first change in an attempt to sharpen Saints’ cutting edge – May coming on for Kane.
Shortly after, Stevie Crawford also freshened his team up, replacing Comrie with Lewis Mayo.
There was a bit of pin-ball in the Saints box when a couple of Dunfermline shots had to be charged down and in the end Joshua Edwards neither did one thing nor the other with his floated left foot chip to the back post that drifted over.
The poor standard of crossing from Saints had been a running theme and it came as no great shock that Craig Conway was introduced (for Davidson) to try and change that. That change was followed by Callum Hendry for Wotherspoon.
In stoppage time Hendry dragged a low shot past the post but if ever a game had 0-0 and extra-time written all over it, it was this one.
When Rooney killed a Tanser cross with his first touch and drilled the ball home with his second, Saints at least looked to have spared themselves the ordeal of penalty kicks.
With the goal coming just four minutes into the extra 30, Davidson’s men had plenty of time to ease the pressure and May twice came close with shots from the edge of the box and missed a sitter from close-range.
Those squandered opportunities were punished – as was some weak defending – when Wilson latched on to a loose ball to shoot past Clark for an equaliser eight minutes into the second half.
So penalties it was.
Paul Watson was the first to miss for the Pars then Hendry also had his effort saved but Clark was the hero when he foiled Kevin O’Hara and Craig scored the decisive spot-kick to send Saints to the Betfred last four.