St Johnstone took the season of goodwill just a wee bit too far by gifting Hearts a draw at McDiarmid Park.
This game should have been wrapped up, ribbon-bound and tucked under the tree by Tommy Wright’s men.
Instead, it finished goalless as the Perth side missed chance after chance and saw the door to third spot in the Premiership remain shut for now.
The gigantic, glittery and golden opportunity was squandered by Steven MacLean from the penalty spot with just 11 minutes of the game remaining.
It wasn’t quite as bad as his rocket-shot that flew sky-high during the game against Dundee United at Tannadice last month, which has probably been spotted by now by British astronaut Tim Peake as he orbits the planet in the Internmational Space Station.
Nevertheless, it was off target by enough yardage to rob his team of what would have been a well-deserved and welcome win against a Hearts team that had played for over an hour with 10 men after Juanma was sent off for a head-butt aimed at Saints’ David Wotherspoon.
The spotkick was awarded to the hosts after home substitute Chris Kane was fouled inside the area by Hearts’ Miguel Pallardo on 79 minutes.
In hindsight, it would have been better had Kane taken the kick he earned himself but instead the ball was gathered up by MacLean, who is the club’s top scorer.
He will be feeling guilty but the frontman wasn’t the only one who could – and even should – have scored for Saints on Saturday.
Steven Anderson sent a header from close range into keeper Neil Alexander’s arms; Murray Davidson fired wide from eight yards when it looked easier to score; and John Sutton sent a looping header over from a good position.
That was just in the first half.
After the break, there were even more opportunities to raise the blood pressure of manager Wright, who was watching on from the sidelines.
Brian Easton sprinted forward before letting fly from 25 yards with a strike that Alexander did well to parry; Liam Craig had a strike from outside the box that hit the top of the Hearts net; Michael O’Halloran had a header parried by Alexander at the back post then couldn’t convert the rebound; and the Hearts goalie had another couple of great stops to thwart Davidson and Kane towards the end.
It is annoying and frustrating when you miss any gilt-edged opportunity but the penalty was the one which really provided the pre-Christmas pain.
Wotherspoon had sympathy for MacLean and insisted the rest of the players had total belief that he would put them 1-0 up.
“He is gutted, obviously,” said Wotherspoon of his teammate.
“He is scoring goals this season and and just wants to keep adding more.
“Straight after his last penalty miss he put his hand up and said that he wanted to take the next one.
“So we had confidence in him to take the next penalty and score it.
“It was just unfortunate that the ball went over the bar.
“He is disappointed, obviously, just as everyone else in the dressing room is.”
Saints boss Tommy Wright was also kind to MacLean when he summed up the one that got away.
Wright said: “I am disappointed for the players because they played well and it was a good chance to go third in the league.
“The penalty was the best chance of winning the game but at least Macca was brave enough to take it.”
Saints made a couple of changes to the starting line-up that faced Celtic in their previous game.
Back in came Darnell Fisher after being unable to face his parent club, while Sutton the subject of speculation regarding a possible move to St Mirren was also brought in.
Joe Shaughnessy dropped to the bench, while Chris Millar didn’t recover in time from his hamstring injury but should be OK to face Partick Thistle on Boxing Day according to Wright.
The first half was dominated by Juanma’s sending-off, while the second period was most notable for MacLean’s miss from the spot.
The consensus outside the Hearts camp seemed to be that Juanma deserved to go.
However, Tynecastle boss Robbie Neilson was having none of it.
Neilson said: “I was only 10 feet away and didn’t think it was a red card.
“It was two players coming together.
“I thought it was a harsh one.
“Before that I thought we were comfortable and we would go on to win the game.
“But when you go down to 10 men it becomes difficult.
“If we had got three points it would have been daylight robbery but I’m please to stay in third place with a game in hand (on both fourth-placed Saints and second-top Aberdeen).”