St Johnstone were tantalisingly close to leapfrogging Dundee and three other teams into the top six of the Premiership before their one-goal Dens Park lead was wiped out by two late strikes from their Tayside neighbours.
Courier Sport picks out three talking points from Sunday’s 2-1 defeat and the post-match reaction to it.
Second half slump
After the selection of a starting line-up, nothing puts a manager in the spotlight quite like a substitution.
Occasions when it’s patently obvious that a change of personnel has paid off or had the opposite effect are vastly out-numbered by grey area examples wrapped up in many other factors.
Max Kucheriavyi and Connor Smith had only been on the pitch for about a minute when one crossed for the other and Adama Sidibeh came so close to doubling Saints’ lead with a spectacular volley from the former Hearts man’s knock-down.
Had Sidibeh struck his shot either side of Trevor Carson, rather than straight above the Dundee goalie, you could have filed the Levein 58th minute double substitution under a capital I for Inspired.
As it turned out, the sweet strike was saved and after Andy Considine hit the bar from the subsequent corner, Saints were generally weaker as a team post-subs.
A situation like that will forever be one of football’s great imponderables – did the changes adversely impact the performance or was it a case of other shortcomings being at play?
Dealing with Owen Beck is the biggest problem for any manager in a game against Dundee.
Ultimately, the starting line-up didn’t do that effectively enough and nor did the variations of the team.
He’s the best left-back or left wing-back in the league.
Combine it with the most ludicrous penalty award of the season – even in the context of some truly jaw-dropping VAR-induced decisions inflicted upon St Johnstone and others – as well as a general second half drop-off, and that’s as close to a definitive explanation of why 1-0 up became 2-1 down as you can get.
Wrong choice of words
Tony Docherty has got a lot right in his first few months as a manager.
Backed by a healthy summer and January budget, the rookie boss has built an entertaining, attack-minded team that could yet push for a European place.
Dundee fans are rightly more excited by this side than they have been in a long time and love to see their head coach fighting their corner on the touchline and in his media duties.
Docherty got a lot right on Sunday as well.
By replacing Zach Robinson with Dara Costelloe, he helped build the second half momentum that ended up producing a win that should get the Dark Blues back on track in the Premiership.
Docherty appears to be a manager who does his homework before press conferences, recognising the opportunity they present to get messages of his choosing across.
Doing that pre-match is a lot more straightforward than post-match.
Emotions are heightened for the latter, of course.
Given one of his players was stretchered off in front of him, wearing a neck brace, you can understand Docherty speaking from the heart when he was asked to give his verdict on the Michael Mellon-Liam Gordon halfway line incident.
Gordon had the opportunity to take a running jump when the ball looped up, while Mellon had no option but to try and get to it from a standing start.
Both had eyes only on the ball from what I could see and the TV replay didn’t show anything to suggest otherwise.
That the all-powerful VAR official chose not to intervene would appear to back that up.
The odds were in the centre-half’s favour but you certainly wouldn’t expect him to let his opponent bring a ball down unchallenged.
A horrible clash of heads that should have resulted in the game being stopped instantly? Absolutely.
Docherty describing the challenge as “almost life-endangering” wasn’t the best choice of words, though.
Chance to break free gone
With a 14-point gap to the bottom of the Premiership, any fears of automatic relegation from the Premiership would have been banished.
And, with an an eight-point cushion on 11th, you’d be getting close to saying the same for the play-offs.
It always stings for a St Johnstone team that loses at Dens Park, particularly when it’s late and it’s controversial, but the ‘if only’ factor exacerbates the Dens Park frustration this time.
With his post-match withering critique of Saints’ display after the penalty equaliser, Levein quickly sent out a message that they remain slap bang in the middle of a relegation battle and even when a game has turned against them it needs to be seen out properly.
Saints have a daunting run of three games ahead of them – Rangers at home and then St Mirren and Aberdeen away.
If the gaps are still 11 and five by the time Livingston visit McDiarmid Park on the first Saturday in March, that would be a notable mini achievement.