Nine-man Dundee United dug deep in this incredible Scottish Cup quarter-final against Celtic and give themselves a big boost going into the League Cup final.
Amazingly, with this tie now going to a replay at Celtic Park on Wednesday, March 18, that will mean these teams will face each other in four successive matches: this one, Sunday’s final, the replay and then a Premiership clash at Celtic Park on the 21st.
We will all be exhausted by then if this remarkable match is an indicator of what is to some.
So much was packed into this feisty Tannadice fixture.
Top of the lot, though, was the ridiculous red card for Paul Paton after just 11 minutes despite the United midfielder being completely innocent of any offence.
Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk went marching at the same time as Paton following a clash with United’s Calum Butcher.
Hoops skipper Scott Brown, who started it all off by upending Nadir Ciftci, walked away without being punished, while the United striker seemed to react to being fouled.
Paton’s ordering-off was a ludicrous decision by referee Craig Thomson and his assistant Graham Chambers and United will, understandably, be appealing against it.
Then came the penalty kick for the home side just before half-time, with Celtic manager Ronny Deila later claiming that Aidan Connolly had “dived” when challenged by Anthony Stokes.
Ciftci stepped up to score and it was advantage to the hosts in first-half stoppage-time.
Then United full-back Paul Dixon dived to save a shot from Leigh Griffiths and his red card made it nine v 10.
Amazingly, Tannadice goalie Rado Cierzniak leapt to his left to save Griffiths’ kick and it seemed like it would be the Tangerines’ day.
However, with 71 minutes on the clock, Griffiths guided a header past Cierzniak to level.
Celtic had most of the pressure thereafter but United dug deeper than the divots on the park to hang on in there and take the tie back to Parkhead, where they will battle it out for a semi-final spot against either Inverness Caley Thistle or Raith Rovers.
United had made three changes to the line-up that started their previous game, the 2-0 home loss to Partick Thistle.
After being rested against the Jags, Butcher was back in the midfield and was joined there by John Rankin and Connolly.
That meant Charlie Telfer, Chris Erskine and Blair Spittal all started on the bench.
Skipper Sean Dillon and Jarek Fojut were the central defensive partnership, flanked by Dixon on the left and Ryan McGowan on the right.
Up front for the hosts, there was the welcome sight of Ciftci, with the Turk’s disciplinary case ruled not proven and freeing him up to play.
Of course, there was no sign of former United men Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven in green and white, with the Hoops’ transfer deadline day buys both cup-tied.
The United players were greeted by enthusiastic and loud applause from their fans as they lined-up for kick-off, while the Glasgow men went into their usual huddle.
Ryan Dow tried to pounce on hesitancy from Jason Denayer as the faced his own keeper Craig Gordon on five minutes then a long, tricky run from Connolly showed the Tangerines were in the mood.
On 11 minutes the tie exploded into controversy.
It was all started by a Brown tackle that upended Ciftci, who reacted to the challenge. Then Van Dijk got involved as he clashed with Butcher, with the pair tangling with each other on the deck.
In one of the worst refereeing decisions seen at Tannadice for a long time, referee Thomson waved red cards at Van Dijk and, bizarrely, Paton.
It was an obvious case of mistaken identity, with Paton ordered off when innocent of any offence other than trying to be a peacemaker.
Several of the United players who were left on the park, including Butcher, pleaded with Thomson.
Brown, meanwhile, walked away scot-free.
Now with only 20 men down, the game got going again eventually.
On 23 minutes, Ciftci had a shot blocked and the ball fell to Connolly, who tried to get space to shoot before being tackled by Brown, who went on to foul Butcher right at the edge of the box.
Ciftci sent the resultant freekick low and to the left but it missed the post by about a foot.
Celtic were winning plenty of corners but making nothing of them, with Rankin seemingly perfectly placed every time to head the ball away.
Just three minutes before the break, United needed keeper Cierzniak to dive low to save a 25-yarder from Stefan Johansen.
The game had suddenly sprung into life as the interval approached and the woodwork was hit at both ends.
Firstly on 43 minutes, a long throw by McGowan eventually made its way to Butcher. The midfielder tried a shot from just outside the area which was deflected by teammate Dow on to the post.
Then, up at the other end, good play by Johansen sent Stokes clean through on goal. The Irishman should have burst the net but instead sent the ball left and it struck the upright.
And a half that for so long was incident-free ended with the home team taking the lead from the penalty spot.
Emilio Izaguirre inexplicably gave the ball away instead of letting it run out of play and Connolly drove in towards goal. Stokes and Nir Bitton came in to challenge him and down went the wee man.
Celtic’s players claimed it was a dive by the United player but the referee was sure that Stokes had bundled him over. Thomson pointed to the spot and up stepped Ciftci to score his 12th goal of the season.
Thomson was booed by both sets of supporters as he made his way out for the second period.
But he was centre stage yet again just three minutes after the restart as the match flared up again.
A sweeping Celtic move up the left saw Johansen set off up the park. The ball flew across the box to Griffiths, who fired it goalwards.
Dixon leapt to save the ball with his hand and he was shown the third red card of the game.
It was a spotkick to Celtic and Griffiths placed the ball and hit his kick well, only to see Cierzniak leap to his left to save and keep the scorline at 1-0.
Down to nine men now, United brought on defender John Souttar for Connolly to try to plug the gap left by Dixon’s departure.
On 61 minutes, Cierzniak was the hero again as he stretched out his arms to push away a dangerous drive from Stokes.
United’s players were dropping like flies now and there was real concern when Rankin fell to the floor inside the box and needed treatment.
Then Ryan Dow left the field after picking up an injury and was replaced by Erskine on 64 minutes.
On 66 minutes, the Tangerines broke upfield through Erskine after a mistake by Efe Ambrose. The former Partick man fired the ball forward to Butcher, whose angled shot was saved by Craig Gordon.
Cierzniak then did well to save with his feet from Hoops sub John Guidetti.
The visitors did, though, pull themselves level on 71 minutes through Griffiths.
Johansen sent in a terrific chipped cross and it reached the former Dundee man, who had far too much space and time in which to send his header flying past Cierzniak.
That was a shame for the big Pole, who had been outstanding until then and continued to be so throughout the game.
Cierzniak dived at Guidetti’s feet in the last minute of regulation time as the hosts held on with grim determination.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Dillon, Dixon, McGowan, Fojut, Paton, Butcher, Rankin, Dow (Erskine 64), Connolly (Souttar 50), Ciftci. Subs not used: Szromnik, Spittal, Telfer, Bilate, Anier.
Celtic: Gordon, Izaguirre, Ambrose, Van Dijk, Bitton (90+2), Brown, Stokes (Guidetti 64), Denayer, Johansen, Griffiths, (Scepovic 87), Forrest. Subs not used: Zaluska, Scepovic, Wakaso, McGregor, Henderson.
Referee: Craig Thomson.