The Hearts goalkeeper, who has drawn the short straw to face the post-match press pack on more occasions than he would care to admit this season, diligently picked his way through yet another missed opportunity, scouring valiantly for a trace of hope in the most desperate of situations.
Yet there was one utterance which escaped MacDonald's lips that threw a stark new light on Hearts' cause, a single sentence which summed up the alarming reality encompassing the Edinburgh club. "We have Kilmarnock away next weekend and that's a game we can't lose now."
The preposterousness of such a summation coming in the middle of October, with such phrases normally reserved for last-throw-of-the-dice contests after the split, is an indication of how traumatic an afternoon Hearts had on Saturday. That was the day their season turned on its head, although it was matters away from Fir Park which proved most troublesome.
Losing games is not an unfamiliar concept for the Tynecastle club, but comfort had been found by those sides in their immediate sight faltering with them. Unfortunately for MacDonald and his team-mates, a renaissance in Paisley and then Kilmarnock now means a 13-point gap separates them from civilisation in the SPFL Premiership.
"We weren't really looking at other teams' results," said the goalkeeper. "We've been saying all season it's up to us to win games. We got off to a great start but the last five or six games is very disappointing. To be still this far behind after 10 games, we need to think 'teams are starting to pull away from us again, we need to rein them back in'. We have Kilmarnock away next weekend and that's a game we can't lose now."
While that trip to Rugby Park is, quite rightly, being treated with the utmost caution by the Hearts camp, there is still enough about Gary Locke's team to suggest the fat lady isn't about to break into song just yet. Jamie Walker's ability to break at great haste was a key attribute of Hearts' forward play on Saturday, while midfielder Jamie Hamill continues to provide a strong guiding hand for the young flock around him.
"The hardest thing is we are competing in games," said MacDonald, who witnessed Ryan Stevenson complete a quick break to put Hearts into the lead. "There's just been so many games this season where we have played well, got ourselves in front and then lapses in concentration have meant we've come away with nothing."
While Hearts were left to ponder their fifth defeat in six games, Motherwell embraced an afternoon of new beginnings at Fir Park, with two men central to the celebrations. Gunnar Nielsen made his league debut for the club after joining in the summer, and performed admirably to deny the sporadic advances of the Hearts attack. He twice denied them just minutes before the break with an acrobatic double save from Walker and David Smith, while he was blameless as Stevenson's effort deflected beyond him and in at the near post.
This is the Faroe Island internationalist's second spell at the club following an inactive loan spell in 2008 in which he failed to notch one appearance. But given No.1 Lee Hollis could also miss Sunday's trip to McDiarmid Park due to an ankle injury, Nielsen may get another chance to show the credentials that previously earned him deals with Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers.
"I didn't get any guarantees but I knew I had a good chance of playing," said the goalkeeper, whose side are now joint second in the league table, only slipping behind Inverness Caledonian Thistle on goal difference. "At Man City I was out for a year-and-a-half with a bad knee injury. I needed to regroup and find a club where I could get a game."
If Nielsen's league bow was accomplished if not understated, that of 19-year-old Craig Moore was simply spectacular. The Under-20s striker was on the park for a matter of seconds before lashing a stunning volley into the net from 25 yards with his first touch to level this encounter, showing a clinical edge that their Edinburgh counterparts can only wish for.
"I'm so happy for him," said Nielsen of the youngster, who also scored in a 4-0 Youth Cup tie win in Montrose yesterday afternoon. "I'm a goalie so I wouldn't know, but to come on and score like that must be the best feeling ever."