As the clock ticked down and all seemed lost for the home side, an old-fashioned cross to the back post by Barry Douglas was nodded down amid a tangle of bodies by Gavin Gunning and Jon Daly bundled a header over the line. It was hardly tippy-tappy football but who cares about that when you plunder a hard-earned point in stoppage time? Peter Houston's team were thoroughly deserving of a share of the spoils. Despite trailing by two goals after 30 minutes, they battled away to the bitter end and were rewarded for their spirit
"I think we should've won," said Houston, who added that some vocal disapproval from a section of the Dundee United support "disappointed" him. "We certainly had chances and I thought we were totally dominant in the second half. I told them at half time to show some character and they did. I have to give them credit for that never-say-die attitude."
Proceedings began at a fair old lick and it was Kilmarnock who showed plenty of zeal going forward. Borja Perez sent in an early warning shot which dipped down on to the top of the net before the Spaniard latched on to some slapdash United defending a few seconds later only to blast a good chance into the stand.
The hosts would not be let off for a third time, though, as their visitors burst down the door. Cillian Sheridan was fouled by Sean Dillon some 25 yards out and the Irishman picked himself up and unleashed a curling free-kick which sailed into the net.
It took a while for United to find their feet and when they did, they couldn't find the target. Gary Mackay-Steven lashed a dangerous, inviting low ball across the face of the goal but the lurking Johnny Russell thumped the glorious opportunity skywards from. There was still plenty of menace at the other end as Paul Heffernan had a shot well palmed to safety by Radoslaw Cierzniak before Sheridan, who was giving the home defenders plenty of chores to deal with, could only send a decent chance past the post. He may have had a wild swipe on that occasion but a finish of a more composed, considered nature on the half hour gave Kilmarnock a cushion. Gary Harkins strode forward and released Sheridan who dinked past the sprawling Cierzniak. It was simple stuff from the Ayrshiremen while the home side continued to make their own problems.
But Mackay-Steven kick-started his team's salvage operation. Driving at the heart of the Kilmarnock defence, the 22-year-old moved into position on the edge of the box and smacked a powerful shot past the diving Bell. It was very much game on and the hosts had renewed vigour but, just as the momentum was building, Kilmarnock inched further ahead again on 52 minutes. Perez's flick-on in the box should, perhaps, have been intercepted by the on-rushing Cierzniak but Heffernan managed to get his head on the ball first and send it looping over the line.
On Children In Need night, Kilmarnock would show their charitable side just four minutes later, as they failed to safeguard that cushion while giving United new hope. Russell whipped over a cross from the left and Daly stooped to head into the net from close range. The cavalry charge was back on and it would reach a barns-storming conclusion with Daly's late intervention.
Shiels was less than happy that the suggestion he called Dundee United a long-ball team had been whipped up in the build-up to this match by Willo Flood, the Tannadice midfielder.
"To come out with that is the lowest of the low," he said. "He told untruths to bring them some motivation. I would like to know why he said that because if you back to that game [the 3-1 defeat to Kilmarnock in August] I had nothing but praise from them. I would like an apology."