THE decision to play Celebration after the final whistle might have jarred given Motherwell had to settle for a point, yet it had been made to feel like their day.
The recovery of a two-goal deficit was always likely to affect their perspective on the draw, but it had already been a significant afternoon for the hosts as it marked the anniversary of the death of captain Phil O'Donnell on the pitch five years ago to the day.
Fir Park rose in unison to pay tribute to O'Donnell by applauding throughout the 10th minute – the midfielder's squad number – and the moment was almost given a sharp increase in volume as Michael Higdon turned a shot on goal only for Kilmarnock's Cammy Bell to smother it. "That would have been perfect," said Motherwell manager Stuart McCall.
The failure to make the most of that chance was disguised as it came while attentions were directed elsewhere, while Motherwell's second-half salvo would also diminish its impact on the result.
Its significance would be made to seem more acute when Borja Perez angled a shot into the net to give Kilmarnock a 1-0 lead just two minutes later, though.
It was a goal delivered by a Spaniard, but it was an Irishman who set it up. Paul Heffernan took possession with his back to goal and laid off a pass for Perez to plant neatly into the top-right corner. Heffernan nearly added a second 12 minutes later when he squeezed a shot past Darren Randolph, but it was diverted over the crossbar by Shaun Hutchinson. It would take a more forceful effort for Heffernan to add his fifth goal of the season after 62 minutes. Perez sent a corner into the penalty area and his team-mate's header spun away from Randolph's grasp to settle in the net.
"We had some good spells in the game, but we are disappointed to come away with a draw," said Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels. "Again, it was a good advert for the Scottish game."
The Ayrshire side's goals exposed Motherwell, but the hosts' modesty remained intact for the most part. Their form this season would suggest the Fir Park side are better suited to playing away from home and they have still kept just one clean sheet on home soil – in a goalless draw with Hearts last month – yet they were held back initially by inefficient finishing yesterday.
Higdon shot weakly from six yards, Tom Hateley had two free kicks clutched by Bell, and Henrik Ojamaa shot wide from outside the box late in the first half.
Their best chance of the first half came in the final moments, though, with Jamie Murphy's shot cleared off the line by Perez. The Motherwell forward has been linked with a move away in January so often his club might have considered taking on extra staff just to cope with the demand and he showed typical assurance on the left yesterday. One run just before the hour illustrated that point, Murphy gliding between opponents with the ball only to also elude a subsequent pass from Nicky Law.
Another run into the penalty area would allow Murphy to prove his worth in front of goal, too, although he seemed somewhat sheepish about claiming responsibility for the first of his side's goals after 71 minutes.
Substitute Bob McHugh directed a shot towards the bottom corner and Murphy simply made sure the ball made it by nudging it over the line from a couple of yards.
"There is a strong possibility [that it was Murphy's last game for Motherwell] but there is nothing definite," McCall said, with Sheffield United mooted to be favourites for the 23-year-old's signature.
"I have seen players leave clubs without having an opportunity to say thank you and out of everybody he probably deserves it more. I tried to take him off to let him get some applause, but we couldn't get it done fast enough."
Motherwell were emboldened by their goal and refused to budge from Kilmarnock's half. It would take just four minutes for the Lanarkshire side to draw level, Ojamaa cutting inside before bending a shot in off the far post.
The Estonian has also reportedly been attracting interest but his strike had real value for Motherwell yesterday as it allowed them to retain a share of second place in the SPL alongside Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
"I'm really proud of the way they are playing at the moment," McCall added.
A point gained