Having kickstarted the league season with the four-goal weekend win over St Johnstone, the Dundee United manager's decision to omit three of the four scorers from that encounter - Gary Mackay-Steven, Stuart Armstrong and Keith Watson - along with the injured Ryan Dow seemed unnecessarily risky. Not content with ringing the changes, though, he even went as far as to switch to a back three featuring John Souttar, Calum Butcher and captain Sean Dillon and they did not keep the door bolted at all.
Indeed, were it not for a fellow named Nadir, McNamara's spell in the Tannadice manager's office would have reached an all-time low. Despite having dominated and been denied twice by the frame of the goal, his rejigged side were trailing to a first-half effort from one-time United forward Kevin Smith when Nadir Ciftci was asked to replace Mark Wilson on 63 minutes and save the day. He duly did. Twice.
After scoring himself and turning provider for Ryan Gauld, the Dutch-born Turkish youth internationalist pounced again just two minutes from the end to settle an outrageous rollercoaster of a game after substitute Mitch Megginson had made it 2-2. "Nadir looked sharp and strong," said McNamara. "It is important that [Brian] Graham, him and [David] Goodwillie all push each other. This was about giving other players a chance as I'll need them all over the season. We could have had it wrapped up by half-time, but the lads deserve credit for the chances created; even if this wasn't good for my health."
Goodwillie missed a golden chance on seven minutes when heading wide from a Wilson cross and strong claims for a penalty were turned down when a shot from Graham clearly struck the hand of Aaron Barry. Graham then forced a fine save from Jamie Ewings four minutes later with a well-struck volley from an Andrew Robertson cross.
There is always a danger of being punished when you do not capitalise on your opportunities, though, and Dumbarton went in front 11 minutes from the break after Jamie Prunty and Barry threatened the visiting goal with headers. Smith took a ball from Paul McGinn on his chest with his back to goal and spun past Souttar to move into space at the edge of the area. With the visiting rearguard left wrongfooted and exposed, the former United man released a left-footed shot that Souttar, scrambling to try to rescue the situation, could not prevent from ricocheting off his boot and rippling the net.
Gauld did strike the crossbar with an ambitious 25-yard shot before the interval and the woodwork would deny an increasingly-desperate United again on 56 minutes when an angled Paton shot from a Souttar through ball deflected off Hugh Murray and came back off the foot of the near post. However, Dumbarton could easily have scored again a little after the hour when a goal-bound volley from Barry struck Robertson just yards from his own goal and somehow bounced to safety.
Seemingly inspired by that narrow escape, Ciftci, introduced for Wilson, produced a fantastic piece of skill to level matters in the 69th minute. Paton sprayed a terrific diagonal ball out on the right and the forward controlled the ball with his chest to take Scott Smith out of the game. Ewings raced from his line to narrow the angle, but Ciftci kept his cool and beat the goalkeeper to his left with a clever, right-footed toe-poke.
Ten minutes later, Ciftci was at it again. He wriggled into space on the right and his low ball into the heart of the box broke to Gauld, who held his nerve as bodies flailed around him to finish from close range.
Yet, just when it looked as though United had hauled victory from the jaws of defeat, substitute Megginson collected a loose ball at the edge of the area with four minutes left and curled it over Radoslaw Cierzniak.
Extra-time looked inevitable. That was, until Ciftci reappeared two minutes from time. Fellow substitute Chris Erskine forced the ball into his path just inside the box and he produced another sharp finish to end the home side's brave resistance.
"I'm gutted for the players because they put so much in against a Premier League team," said home manager Ian Murray.