Dundee got their Championship challenge up and running as super sub Andrew Nelson sent out a reminder that there’s more than one goalscorer in town.
New signing Kane Hemmings unsurprisingly stole all the headlines pre-match as he returned to Dens Park three years after leaving on the back of a 25-goal season in the Premiership.
However, it was the man whose place he had taken in the starting line-up that was hogging the limelight post-match as Nelson’s 74th-minute header won a massive three points for James McPake and his Dark Blues.
Following a 2-2 draw at Dunfermline on their return to the second tier, Dundee were desperate to bag their first home league win since December.
In their way, however, was a battle-hardened Ayr United side led by former Dee Ian McCall.
And throughout a very tight 90 minutes, the Honest Men showed just why they’ve been so successful over the past couple of seasons.
They might have lost their main man Lawrence Shankland to Dundee United as well as the creative force of Declan McDaid, who lined up against them for McPake’s men.
However, they are compact, very difficult to play through and just waiting to spring a counter-attack.
And Dundee found it hard going through the first-half sunshine and second-half rain.
Persistently, the home side were forced to play the ball backwards with their opponents shutting off every other avenue, much to the growing frustration of the home support.
Dundee fans have had to endure hard watch after hard watch at Dens Park since the turn of the year.
This time, however, there was a cheer to be found as time ticked away.
Hemmings coming in was one of three changes from the draw at Dunfermline and the fans favourite was so close to scoring within 10 minutes of his second Dark Blues debut.
It was a bright start from Dundee and Paul McGowan found the main man in the area.
There wasn’t to be the fairytale start, however, as Hemmings’ effort clipped the defender on the way through, pushing the ball inches over the bar.
Slowly but surely Ayr began to play themselves into the contest and Dundee’s bright start was forgotten.
The combination of Michael Moffat and Alan Forrest started to really test the Dens defence and could easily have breached it on more than one occasion.
On 17 minutes, Moffat fed Forrest but Jack Hamilton stood up to beat the ball out.
Then on 39 minutes, Forrest was brought down by a risky challenge from Cammy Kerr. The referee said the defender got the ball and no penalty to Dundee’s relief and McCall’s obvious frustration.
Then came the pivotal moment in the second half. The ball dropped in the Dundee area and nobody reacted – the defence left it to the goalkeeper and the goalkeeper left it to the defence.
Forrest nipped in and should have scored but for the flying boot of Hamilton.
Hemmings would have another chance shortly after as Dundee created opportunities of their own.
It was clear, though, that whoever got the first goal was going to win it – for the long- suffering Dees, they were just glad, for once, it was them.
With 16 minutes remaining, left-back Jordan Marshall capped a fine display with a pinpoint cross that Nelson was only too happy to nod into the far corner.
This was a game that easily could have went Ayr’s way.
Thanks to Jack Hamilton and Andrew Nelson, it went Dundee’s.