BACK in the sixth century BC, when Babylonia fell, the Persian Empire rose from its ashes and toga-wearing Greek philosophers first started to look quizzically at tortoises, the Chinese sage Lao Tzu delicately laid down the first few brushstrokes of the Tao Te Ching, the text that would go on to become the bedrock of Taoism.
Lao Tzu had faith in the duality of the universe. "When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly," he declared. Yin and yang. Each thing must, by its very nature, have an opposite.
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So perhaps that in order to have that mouthwatering Old Firm derby drawn out of the hat on Saturday evening we first had to sit through this: 90 minutes of the most tedious, excruciating football imaginable. For what seemed like an eternity, the large clock hanging over one of the stands at Cappielow poked fun of the spectator. Time stood still. The little hand lazily ticked its way round, trundling through treacle. The match cloyed at the senses.
Whenever Airdrieonians booted long from a goalkick, every single player on the pitch, bar the goalkeepers, was crammed into a space that could not have been more than 20 yards by 20 yards. The ball arrived from on high, then bumped around and off bodies in that tight, cramped area until it probably went out for a throw-in. Rinse, repeat.
Even Airdrie's strip was a blight on the eyes, the kind of garish bright pink that could make a man weep simply through prolonged exposure.
While there were chances, they fell into a familiar pattern. If a striker even caught a glimpse at goal, he shot straight at the goalkeeper. Andy Barrowman was guilty, in the second half. Liam Watt had done likewise after just four minutes. Keigan Parker, Scott Gray, Conor Pepper ... each found himself in promising positions and messed up.
"I've been training with tennis balls to get my reactions up," declared Derek Gaston, the Morton goalkeeper. He might as well have trained with a beach ball for all the toothless strikers troubled him.
He was beaten on one occasion, when Parker crashed a quick shot to rattle the crossbar after darting in cleverly from the right.
There was another rare moment of excitement when Joe McKee was shown a straight red card after he slid in, studs up, on Airdrie's Luca Gasparotto - on loan from Rangers - and left him writhing on the turf in agony. It perked up the crowd for a moment - something had happened! - but did not change the game much. Morton settled for the replay, Airdrie could not break through. The match fizzled out.
Both managers expressed their satisfaction at being involved in today's draw. They are no closer to Hampden, though, and on this form neither will get anywhere near.
The poor crowd, shellshocked as they wandered out, were left to contemplate these five chilling words: there will be a replay.
*The original online version of this article referred to Morton's Luca Gasparotto: it should have referred to Airdrie's Luca Gasparotto