Tuesday night saw one of the best matches of the season in the SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership as in-form Kilmarnock faced a highly-motivated Dundee side at Rugby Park.
Steve Clarke’s men were missing influential midfielders Youssuf Mulumbu through injury and Jordan Jones through suspension, while, Dundee were boosted by the debut of England international defender Steven Caulker after his move north of the border just under a week ago.
And, it was Neil McCann’s side who started better as Paul McGowan tried his luck from just inside the area but Jamie MacDonald was alert to the situation to get down low to his right to save.
Then, on only 5 minutes, the deadlock was broken: A corner swung in was flicked on by Kris Boyd into the path of Eamonn Brophy who tucked the ball home across Elliot Parish to give the hosts the early advantage.
Sofien Moussa headed over a glorious chance for the visitors shortly after before Mark O’Hara shot straight at MacDonald.
The game took a bit of lull as the midway point of the first-half came around, but, Dundee kept on pushing for an equaliser as McGowan once again forced ex-Hearts shot-stopper MacDonald into a smart stop in the top right-hand corner of his goal.
Jon Aurtenexte was next to let fly but his left-footed attempt was gathered by Killie’s number one. However, on the half-hour mark, Stuart Findlay conceded a corner in which Dundee received a penalty.
As the ball was flighted in, Nick Walsh deemed Gary Dicker had handled the ball inside the area and a spot-kick was awarded to the Dark Blues.
Moussa stepped up to take and calmly slotted the ball home for the equaliser that the Dees richly deserved.
Brophy then flashed a shot wide of goal before full-back Stephen O’Donnell hit his effort high as half-time approached. Brophy had another dig at goal which Parish done well to gather before Walsh blew for the interval.
Lee Erwin was introduced early on in the second-half as Kilmarnock goalscorer Brophy was forced off through injury. This seemed to derail the hosts slightly as the Ayrshire men started the final period of play slowly.
This allowed Dundee to take control once more and on 55 minutes, they won a corner which Steven Caulker headed home on his debut to send the away section into raptures. The centre-back rose above his marker and bulleted his effort beyond MacDonald to put McCann’s team in front for the first time in the match.
Tensions seemed to boil over as Gary Dicker took out Roarie Deacon just moments later. The Englishman was shown a second-yellow card for his challenge, leaving Clarke’s side with a mountain to climb as they were reduced to 10 men with half-an-hour remaining.
Interestingly enough, Clarke took off a defender, Scott Boyd, to bring on Iain Wilson in his place at this juncture; an inspired substitution by the former assistant manager to Jose Mourinho, come the end of the match.
The game opened up as the midway point in the half came and gone. Simon Murray curled an effort wide of goal before Rory McKenzie forced Parish into a decent save at the other end.
Cammy Kerr then came on for Roarie Deacon on the right but just seconds later it was 2-2. Erwin done well to create the opening before laying the ball off to Boyd. The predatory striker struck in traditional fashion as the Killie front-man smashed past Parish to bring the 10-men back on to level terms.
O’Hara headed over the bar with just over 10 minutes remaining before McCann went for the jugular – the former Dunfermline coach brought on Faissal El Bakhtaoui in place of Angolan international defender Genseric Kusunga as the former winger went for broke in the closing stages of this enthralling encounter.
The game became scrappy as neither side wanted to concede late on – McKenzie did try his luck from the left but his right-footed attempt was off-target. However, the winner did come just one minute later.
Substitute Iain Wilson picked up the ball deep before striding forward unchallenged; the youngster got himself into a great shooting position before showing the composure required to pick his spot and send Rugby Park delirious as the hosts stunned everyone with a comeback o the season contender.
There was still four minutes remaining plus injury time and Clarke’s side came under intense pressure. After MacDonald conceded a corner, Caulker looked to be the hero, but, this time his header drifted narrowly wide of goal to the despair of the visiting technical area.
Aaron Simpson came on for Boyd to shore up the hosts defence whole O’Hara was swapped out for Lewis Spence in a last-ditch throw of the dice by McCann.
El Bakhtaoui had the final attempt of the game but his effort from distance travelled wide of target in the dying embers of this match before the full-time whistle was blown.
A massive 3 points for Kilmarnock who now sit just outwith of the top 6, right on the coat-tails of Motherwell – with the Ayrshire club having two games in hand over the Steelmen, too.
Whereas, for Dundee, the future looks uncertain after a worrying collapse by the Dees. McCann will have a lot of questions going through his mind now, as he tries to fathom out how his side managed to throw away a 2-1 lead against the plucky 10-men of Killie.
FULL-TIME: Kilmarnock 3-2 Dundee
1. Jamie MacDonald
2. Stephen O’Donnell
5. Kirk Broadfoot
16. Scott Boyd (Iain Wilson 62′)
17. Stuart Findlay
7. Rory McKenzie
27. Aaron Tshibola
8. Gary Dicker
12. Greg Taylor
9. Kris Boyd (Aaron Simpson 90′)
25. Eamonn Brophy (Lee Erwin 50′)
32. Leo Fasan (GK)
18. Calum Waters
20. Iain Wilson
21. Adam Frizzell
22. Lee Erwin
26. Aaron Simpson
29. Chris Burke
12. Elliot Parish
4. Steven Caulker
5. Genseric Kusunga (Faissal El Bakhtaoui 79′)
6. Darren O’Dea
21. Roarie Deacon (Cammy Kerr 73′)
14. Mark O’Hara (Lewis Spence 90′)
8. Glen Kamara
18. Paul McGowan
15. Jon Aurtenexte
9. Sofien Moussa
17. Simon Murray
67. Jeremy Malherbe (GK)
2. Cammy Kerr
7. A-Jay Leitch-Smith
20. Faissal El Bakhtaoui
28. Lewis Spence
34. Kerr Waddell
47. Jack Lambert
Referee: Nick Walsh