THE first three months of Dundee's return to the top flight has felt like an act of endurance.
It had been accepted readily that the Dens Park squad was out of shape when they were invited to take up a position in the league left vacant following the travails at Rangers, and they showed little hope of keeping up with the rest after three months of poor form and poorer results.
The impression was that supporters would have to endure the rest of the campaign through the gaps between their fingers; a run of 10 defeats in 11 matches having left their club slumped at the bottom of the table and seemingly exhausted.
Dundee are still there yet they have shown signs of life in recent weeks, the Dens Park side stripped of their hopes of survival by some only to expose the sort of character which will serve them well in the second half of the season. It was enough to earn them a point on Saturday which leaves the club just five points behind St Mirren and with a game in hand.
The draw came after a battling performance against Ross County which also owed much to good fortune. Dundee are earning their luck these days, though, and their resolve will likely cause the Dingwall side further frustration as the scrap to stave off relegation becomes more heated.
"There is a long time to go yet, a lot of football to be played, but we are playing well enough, so we're quite happy in ourselves," said Colin Nish, the on-loan Hartlepool United striker. "We've done all right recently and I can't see us going on a losing run again. I think we are causing the teams above us one or two concerns.
"The boys are defending brilliantly and we just need to put the ball in the back of the net more often. Myself and the other strikers haven't been doing that in the last few games but hopefully we can get back to that."
Nish is able to bear that weight on his broad shoulders better than most and he has been a pillar of strength to the Dens Park squad since arriving on loan. His side were also able to draw confidence from their past visits to Dingwall – Dundee developing a habit of pulling off good results there when both sides contested the first division.
Indeed, Dundee took the lead after just 37 minutes through Iain Davidson after the midfielder's shot swerved violently in the air and wrong-footed Mark Brown, the County goalkeeper. "It was unfortunate," said Brown, who has just extended his Dingwall contract to the end of the season. "The new modern balls can swing quite a distance in the air. When it left his foot, I thought it was going to my right but then it swung completely the other way. Sometimes there is nothing you can do when the ball changes direction like that."
Gary Glen restored parity midway through the second half but Brown's focus fell on his side's performance earlier in the match. "In the first half, we gave as much as we could but in the second half we lifted the tempo and created by far the better chances," said the goalkeeper.
"There was a chance at the end for Richie Brittain after a great move but it hit the post. It is just one of those things –Richie has had some great performances this season.
"It is just unfortunate and, on another day, it would have crept inside the post. We had a few chances at the end and could maybe have sneaked it. We have a busy Christmas period and it is just a case of getting the heads down and picking up as many points as we can."