When the clock turned over to 90 minutes it was still 2-1 with Ayr frantically chasing an equaliser. If you'd told a Dundee supporter at that point that there were still two more goals to come the reaction might have been panic. As it transpired Dundee raced away with the match in injury time and scored twice more through Jake Hyde and Ryan Conroy to leave the visitors seething with frustration and send the home supporters out of the ground laughing and checking with each other that it really had finished 4-1.
There were two changes from the draw with Raith Rovers. Neither Leighton McIntosh nor Kyle Benedictus were in the squad on Saturday, but both came straight into the starting line-up tonight. Finnigan and McGregor dropped out with injuries.
Ayr had their own injury problems too. Unfortunately the popular ex-Dee Eddie Malone lasted only 10 minutes before picking up an injury that sent him limping out of the match. Ayr were forced into an attacking substitution with striker Keigan Parker coming on up front, while Moffat moved back to midfield, and Dodd from midfield to left back.
The new left back didn't look happy against Jamie McCluskey and the Dundee winger soon caught him out. Stephen O'Donnell lofted a long pass over the stand in full back. McCLUSKEY raced after it, touched the ball inside the defender and from 15 yards rifled the ball through Cuthbert's legs and into the net.
Ayr could have been quickly back on level terms when Geggan was twice allowed free headers from corners. The first was the harder chance, and he headed well wide, but he should have scored with the second instead of powering the ball over the bar. Dundee's defence continued to struggle at set pieces and never looked comfortable with the ball in the air.
Dundee should have had a second goal before half time. O'Donnell put in a strong challenge to stop Ayr breaking. Conroy released Lockwood on the left, but McIntosh thrashed the ball over the bar from 10 yards when he should have scored.
Ayr came close themselves on the stroke of half time when Douglas managed to beat away McGowan's low free kick at the near post.
If the first half had seen some sloppy defending and near misses that was nothing compared to what the second half gave us. Dundee opened promisingly and a fine Conroy pass over the top of the defence gave Milne the opportunity to wheel onto the ball and shoot, but just wide. Conroy then ended a clever passing move with a 20 yard shot that narrowly over.
Ayr were soon on the attack themselves and gave Dundee a huge scare. Moffat's angled volley from a Roberts' cross forced a good save from Douglas. The ball spun up in the air, Moffat followed in and seemed certain to score. His header was looping over Douglas, but the veteran keeper showed astonishing agility to get back and somehow paw the ball round the post for a corner as the Ayr players were already starting to celebrate a goal.
Both defences continued to look vulnerable, but happily for Dundee it was Ayr who switched off completely to concede an atrocious second goal. Benedictus was slightly short with a pass back to Douglas, who responded by lashing the ball as high and as far as he could into the Ayr half. Leighton McIntosh was several yards offside, heading back towards his own goal. The Ayr defenders were all watching him, and completely failed to notice Steven Milne running through from an onside position. MILNE pulled the ball down as if it was a training session and ran on to fire past Cuthbert from 15 yards, leaving the defence open mouthed and red faced.
2-0 up against a team struggling at the foot of the table with half an hour to play. The points should have been safe, but that would have been too easy and boring. Dundee did it the hard way. Things started to get tricky now!
First Moffat cracked a shot off the bar after the Dundee defence failed to clear yet another corner. Then Roberts glanced a header onto the base of Douglas's post from a Tiffoney cross. Tiffoney followed that up with a great run through the middle that was ended by a last ditch tackle by McKeown.
Stephen O'Donnell might have scored at the other end when his 18 yard shot took a huge deflection and looped gently over the bar with the keeper already committed.
Finally Ayr got the goal they deserved after 76 minutes. Parker reached they byline on the right and crossed beyond the far post. Moffat headed fown and Roberts turned the ball in from six yards.
Ayr were having far too much joy with driving attacks through the middle, and one of these should have brought an equaliser with 10 minutes to go. Tiffoney slipped the ball through the to send Parker clear. Douglas blocked, but the ball broke free for Parker. With only McKeown on the line to beat the Ayr striker mishit his shot horribly and sent the ball scudding harmlessly into a relieved Bobby Cox Stand.
Barry Smith replaced Milne and McIntosh wth Jake Hyde and Graham Bayne for the last few minutes. It was Hyde who got the goal that finally allowed the Dundee fans to heave a huge sigh of relief. Just after the match had entered injury time Kevin McBride hit a great ball over the the top allowing HYDE to run in from the left. He nodded the ball into his path, ran into the penalty area and clipped a beautiful finish round the advancing Cuthbert.
Dundee then proceeded to rub salt in Ayr's wounds by adding a cruel fourth goal. It involved an outrageously cheeky piece of skill from Jamie McCluskey. Ayr had lost their shape charging forward, and when the ball was cleared to McCluskey he cut infield and performed a bewildering spinning pirouette over the ball that might have been considered showboating if it hadn't been so effective in losing the covering players and leaving him in space. McCluskey then hit a peach of a pass to let Ryan CONROY run clear and score his 10th goal of the season.
That was that, and the players left the field as the DJ played the highly appropriate "That's Entertainment" by the Jam. Entertaining it certainly was, but there's no doubt that Dundee were flattered by tonight's score. Both defences had poor games. Dundee got away with it. Ayr were punished ruthlessly.
Dundee could have lost this game, and Ayr might consider themselves unlucky. However, you don't have to be Alan Hansen to acknowledge that if you miss your chances and you're wide open at the back then things are likely to turn out messy.
It was clear that Ayr's defence was horribly vulnerable to diagonal balls over the top. If Dundee had been more accurate with these passes it could have been a much easier victory, and the Dee wouldn't have had to rely on Big Rab, and sloppy finishing from the visitors.
The defence will certainly have to tighten up, and the midfield will have to provide more effective cover. Still, four goals, a highly entertaining match, and three points; not such a bad evening at Dens. But I still find it hard to believe it ended up as our biggest home win of the season.
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Irvine, McKeown, Benedictus, Lockwood
McCluskey, O'Donnell, McBride, Conroy
Milne (Bayne 87), McIntosh (Hyde 87)
Unused subs; Gibson (gk), Chisholm, Reid
Goals; McCluskey (20), Milne (61), Hyde (90), Conroy (92)
Bookings; Lockwood (foul on McGowan), Bayne (foul on Trouten)
Ayr United 4-4-2
Tiffoney, John Robertson, Smith, Malone (Parker 13)
McGowan, Geggan, Trouten, Dodd
Unused subs; McWilliams (gk), Ross Robertson, Wardlaw, Armstrong
Goal; Roberts (76)
Bookings; Tiffoney (dissent), Trouten (foul on McBride)
Referee; Iain Brines
Report; James Christie