Paul Hartley was able to send out a strong side with Rory Loy recovered from injury. He replaced Paul McGowan, so the Dee reverted to the 4-3-1-2 formation they used in the opening day win at Kilmarnock. United made two changes, Rankin and Connolly coming in for Telfer and Erskine.
The Dark Blues started positively, setting the tone for the first half. Most of the game was in United's half. However, it was a tough time for both Dundee's central defenders. James McPake and Julen Etxabeguren both required treatment for head knocks. A bloody cut meant that the Spanish centre back couldn't continue and Thomas Konrad replaced him after just eight minutes.
A minute later Dundee should have taken the lead when Greg Stewart set up Paul McGinn to fire in a low angled drive from the edge of the penalty area. Zwick parried, and Nick Ross seemed sure to score but with defenders throwing themselves at him he sent his shot straight back at the keeper. United nearly managed to play Rankin in on goal when McPake was off the pitch, and the same player tried his luck from 25 yards, hitting his shot straight at Scott Bain.
Dundee had a couple of dangerous attacks and shots on target, but each time the shot was too close to Zwick. First Kane Hemmings cut in from the left and shot from 18 yards, and then Gary Harkins ended a neat move with a curling shot from the same distance. Paul McGinn was only just off target with an inswinging cross that everyone missed, the ball curling inches outside the far post. A lovely Ross pass played Hemmings in on the left, but the ball held up and the striker couldn't get enough power on his shot to trouble the keeper.
Dundee were having the better of the game, but United had a dangerous spell in the middle of the half. After being fouled 20 yards out Fraser took the free kick himself and struck the wall. Connolly had an effort from 25 yards, but sent it straight at the unruffled Bain. United's best move of the half, ended with McPake heading Fraser's cross behind for a corner.
The Dark Blues soon resumed the attack and put United's defence under fierce pressure for the rest of the first half. Hemmings took Kevin Holt's pass down the left and fired a low ball across the goalmouth with no Dees on hand to turn it in. Next Stewart turned sweetly on the edge of the box. Zwick pushed his shot wide and Loy blasted the loose ball across goal and just past the far post.
Half time arrived without the Dark Blues having scored the goal their play and pressure deserved. Would United regroup and punish the Dee's wastefulness? Would there be a repeat of Saturday? The second half started to unfold in horribly familiar style. United were much more aggressive and confident, pressing Dundee higher up the field and stopping the Dark Blues playing as fluently. Dundee's midfield was further disrupted when Thomson limped off after 49 minutes, and Paul McGowan came on.
Rankin had the first shot of the half for United, an accurate low 25 yarder that required a good save from Bain. Connolly then connected weakly with a volley from Dixon's cross to give the Dee keeper an easy take. In spite of United's improvement Dundee nearly took the lead 10 minutes after the break. A great Harkins break caused disarray in the home defence but Loy's shot was charged down. McGowan picked up the loose ball, but Hemmings headed wide from his cross.
United made two substitutions after 59 minutes, sending on Erskine and Telfer for Connolly and Murray. The changes injected more urgency into the home ranks and opened the game up. Harkins nearly gifted Murray a chance with a careless header, but McPake cleared up.
However, the opening goal was delayed only a couple of minutes, when Blair SPITTAL showed great skill to take the ball from Rankin, turn on the edge of the box and shoot low into Bain's right hand corner; a goal of the highest quality. The goal rocked the Dark Blues and they lost concentration only two minutes later allowing SPITTAL far too much space to run onto Erskine's pass and fire in his second. The Arabs were ecstatic, and taunted the Dark Blue support, convinced the game was won. How wrong they were!
It took the Dark Blues a worryingly long time to pull themselves together, and they might have fallen further behind as Spittal went for his hat trick. Bain saved well from his 22 yard free kick. The Dark Blues then knuckled down and fought furiously for a point.
If Spittal's first goal was excellent, Dundee's first from Greg Stewart was every bit as good. STEWART wide right, on the edge of the penalty area, swapped passes with McGowan. He jinked one way, then the other, and whipped a superb shot around Zwick and into the top corner, a goal reminiscent of his equaliser against Hamilton at Dens last season.
Spittal again came close to his hat trick when he dribbled into the penalty area and shot across goal. United then concentrated on wasting time, spending an agonising couple of minutes down by Dundee's corner flag as the match passed the 90 minutes. Konrad made a great tackle on the edge of the penalty area, and Scott Bain still had a vital save to make, brilliantly turning Murray's shot onto the cross bar while the Dundee defence was shorthanded. James McPake was playing as a desperate, emergency centre forward, and he had the very last word as Dundee went up the other end, throwing everyone into attack.
There were four minutes of added time, and the clock had wound well past 93 minutes when United seemed to have cleared a Dundee attack. Telfer tried to control the ball, thirty yards out but he stood on the ball. Harkins collected it and sent in a rasping low shot. Zwick couldn't hold it, and MCPAKE followed up to knock the ball home to trigger amazing scenes in the Shed. It took Mr Beaton an eternity to sort out the frantic celebrations and he blew the final whistle as soon as United kicked off.
Some draws feel as good as a win, and coming back from two goals down in the last 10 minutes, and saving a derby with the last kick of the ball is as good as it gets without three points. Dundee should have killed off United in the first half, and it was worrying how they fell out of the match for a long spell in the second half. But the Dark Blues came back wonderfully and they fully deserved the celebrations at the end.
Dundee United 4-2-3-1
McGowan, Donaldson, Durnan, Dixon
Fraser (Erskine 59), Spittal, Connolly (Murray 59)
Bodul (Telfer 70)
Unused subs: McCallum (gk), Dillon, Lochhead, Muirhead
Goals: Spittal (64, 66)
Dundee FC 4-3-1-2
McGinn, McPake, Etxabeguren (Konrad 8), Holt
Ross, Thomson (McGowan 49), Harkins
Hemmings (Low 70), Loy
Unused subs: Mitchell (gk), Irvine, Meggatt, Ferry
Goal: Stewart (81), McPake (93)
Booked: Low (foul on Spittal)
Referee: John Beaton
Assistants: Alasdair Ross, Stephen Mitchell. 4th official Craig Charleston
Report: James Christie