Just before five o’clock on May 21, 1994, referee Douglas Hope blew his whistle to end the Scottish Cup Final and in doing so ended 20 years of Hampden hurt for Dundee United.
His four short blasts brought the curtain down on a dramatic 90 minutes that saw the Tangerines upset the odds to beat a treble-chasing Rangers thanks to a second-half goal from Craig Brewster.
As Arabs celebrated, in a split second two decades of pain evaporated as they prepared to watch long-serving skipper Maurice Malpas climb the steps in the main stand to become the first Tangerines player to boast both League and Scottish Cup medals.
For many, as well as joy, there was massive relief, because as close to Scottish Cup glory as their team had previously been, trips west had become painful experiences.
Ninety-four was the seventh journey to Mount Florida since 1974 and each of the other six trips had ended in disappointment.
If for the first, against Celtic, the achievement was in getting there, in the five that followed Jim McLean’s team were given a decent chance of victory and on a couple of occasions were favourites.
For whatever reason, they couldn’t get over the final hurdle.
In 1981 they lost to an ordinary Rangers side after a replay and in 1985 allowed an early second-half lead to slip as Celtic won 2-1.
In 1987 the agony was acute as the side that was in the middle of a two-leg Uefa Cup Final were surprise losers to St Mirren after a strength sapping 120 minutes that also ruined chances of European glory the following midweek.
McLean’s side showed character to get back to the final a year later but there was more heartache as Celtic celebrated their centenary with last-gasp goals to turn the tie after Kevin Gallacher’s opener.
There was another sore one in 1991. Despite a late equaliser that seemed to swing the momentum, United went down 4-3 to Motherwell. That it was one of the classic Hampden clashes was no consolation to fans, who were now suffering national stadium fatigue.
If getting back there in 1994 was another achievement, facing an all-conquering Gers side seeking to complete a second domestic treble in a row, meant many fans headed west braced for the worst.
This time United had an ace up their sleeves in charismatic manager Ivan Golac who’d taken over from Jim McLean a year earlier.If his overall record at Tannadice was not quite up to scratch – he left the next season with the team heading for relegation – his relaxed approach was perfect for big occasions. Looking back, that McLean should be regarded as responsible for the previous failures is unfair.
There’s an impression he became tense before finals and hampered the chances of success but strong performances suggest otherwise. In most cases his team played well but perhaps it was simply a case of luck deserting them at vital moments.
Equally there was no question Golac’s approach was a major factor. He didn’t spend time on tactics but got his players believing this was their day. If the only luck they’d had before was bad, this time it was on their side.
Brewster’s winner stemmed from catastrophic Gers defending and later there was a break as a fumble from keeper Guido van de Kamp saw the ball trickle inches past the post when it might just as easily have ended up in the net.
With veterans of previous finals like Malpas, Dave Bowman and Jim McInally driving them on, Golac’s men also fought to keep Rangers at arms length and see out the game.
It meant come that whistle there was unbridled elation. The hoodoo had been broken, United were Scottish Cup winners.