After 10 defeats on the spin, St Johnstone stopped the rot against Dundee.
Their first point since November 6 kept them within two of the Dark Blues and lifted them one closer to Ross County and Livingston above.
But Perth boss Callum Davidson was at pains to point out Wednesday night’s result must act as a springboard to propel his side towards better things.
Saints desperately need goals, points and reinforcements before the transfer window closes.
So how might the draw with Dundee inform what happens in the coming days, weeks and months?
Here are Courier Sport’s talking points from a decidedly nervy Tayside derby.
Nadir Ciftci’s injury, less than 10 minutes in against the Dark Blues, was the LAST thing St Johnstone needed.
The former Dundee United striker’s movement, pace and willingness to have a crack at goal have been notable positives since the restart – and the prospect of losing them for an extended period is a grim one.
The Turkish hit man’s injury (he hobbled up the tunnel clutching his right hamstring) could see him miss out for four to six weeks, depending on its seriousness.
Those are four to six weeks St Johnstone – stuck at the bottom of the Premiership and with just 11 goals to their name all season – simply do not have.
Callum Hendry looked lively following his return from Kilmarnock and had the best of the chances Saints managed to carve out.
But the Perth side need another option up top because, for all Chris Kane and Stevie May are grafters, their 15-to-20-goals-a-season days are well behind them.
The teams are out at McDiarmid Park for a what promises to be a nerve-jangling clash between St Johnstone and Dundee. Performances desperately needed by both sides. pic.twitter.com/KFelXE2ubO
— Sean Hamilton (@SeanHamSport) January 26, 2022
From brickbats to back pats
Plenty was made of the gauntlet of angry fans the Saints’ players were forced to run after their Scottish Cup loss at Kelty Hearts.
The scenes shared on social media suggested the harmonious relationship fostered between fans and players last season (albeit at a Covid-induced distance) was in danger of turning nasty.
Not a bit of it at McDiarmid Park.
The home side were backed from start to finish by a noisy, enthusiastic home support, led with gusto by the young members of the Fair City Unity group.
The fans were rewarded with a performance that made up for what it lacked in quality with notable determination.
The latter is the bare minimum required from here on in.
A ‘Clear’ successor to Jason Kerr?
Dan Cleary is looking increasingly comfortable at St Johnstone.
And his first half performance in particular against Dundee was incredibly heartening.
So far so good.
But it was the sight of Cleary striding out of defence on multiple occasions – both in and out of possession – that really impressed.
Double cup-winning ex-skipper Jason Kerr made a virtue of his ability to step out of the back line and add numbers and variety to Saints’ forward play.
Cleary looks to be cut from similar cloth to his predecessor at right centre back – and that could go some way towards repairing the tactical dysfunction that has all-but killed Saints as an attacking force this season.
Gaps still to fill
Callum Davidson is not going to change his system.
He has a preferred shape and he’s sticking to it.
That being the case, there are two areas that must be improved – putting the striking issue to one side – before the transfer window shuts.
Saints need an athletic, physical – and ideally technically sound – central midfielder to add some dynamism, bite and threat to their game in middle of the park.
In Jacob Butterfield they have a man whose technique and ability to read a game mean he can drop back comfortably for Cleary when he steps out.
In Cammy MacPherson they have an improving, mobile, project player who provides danger with his dead ball delivery.
They now need a ball of energy who can mix it when required, can beat a man when there’s space to drive into, is tactically disciplined and can pop up with the odd goal.
It’s a big ask.
In Shaun Rooney’s continued absence, they could also do with a forward-thinking right back, who can add some much-needed threat from out wide.
If Davidson can plug those gaps and his players keep fighting, Saints will have a real shot at climbing the table.
If not, life will be much more difficult.