Relieved Tommy Wright hopes Brandon Haunstrup’s late goal has given Kilmarnock the lifeline that will allow them to rescue their 28-year top-flight run.
Second tier runners-up Dundee claimed first blood in their Premiership play-off battle as goals from Jordan McGhee and Charlie Adam put them two-up just after half-time at Dens Park.
But after an error-strewn display, Killie finally got their act together with 13 minutes left when Haunstrup made it 2-1 to hand Wright’s team hope they can beat the drop.
And the Northern Irishman hopes it will be the launch pad for his team to complete that turnaround in Monday’s Rugby Park return.
“I’m pleased we’ve got ourselves back in the game,” Wright said. “Dundee were in control at 2-0. They will be disappointed that they have conceded but will still probably feel they are in the driving seat.
“But it’s a massive goal for us in the context of the two legs and puts us right back in the tie.
“We’ve committed really bad errors. Gary Dicker shouldn’t get caught on the ball for the second and the first goal we don’t track the run.
“We didn’t play as well as we’d have liked but I’m really pleased that we stuck at it and got that all-important goal to get us back in the tie.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Dundee as they played well.
“But looking at my own team’s performance, they are disappointed with how they played.
“I’m just so pleased we got that goal back because it makes things a little bit easier.
“It’s still going to be difficult to turn things around and Dundee are probably favourites.
“The quality has got to be better but the character is there.
“There are pundits out there who have hammered their character but I’ve never doubted it.
“I’m hoping that’s going to be a big turning point in the tie.”
Former Rangers and Liverpool ace Adam set up the move which brought Dundee’s opener six minutes in with a stunning pass for Cammy Kerr. Danny Mullen had a header pushed against the post but McGhee rammed home the rebound.
Adam then netted the second just 90 seconds after the break but Dundee will be kicking themselves after allowing Haunstrup to fire home at the second attempt.
But Dark Blues boss James McPake is remaining confident ahead of the second leg.
He said: “I am delighted for my players and staff for all the hard work that has been put into the tie.
“It paid off and I thought it was a solid performance and a dominant performance against a Premiership side.
“We have the advantage but there is loads of football still to play.
“We still have to go to Rugby Park but if we play like that again then we will give ourselves the best possible chance of being a Premiership club.”