A painful afternoon for Aberdeen in more ways than one as the Dons paid the price for a lethargic display.
The home team was punished by struggling Saints, who came from behind to claim a point.
And they came close to taking all three in a strong second-half showing against a Dons team which struggled to find any rhythm or energy after the interval.
To compound matters for Dons boss Derek McInnes, Jon Gallagher, Craig Bryson and Funso Ojo all joined a rapidly growing injury list.
No wonder the Aberdeen manager is concerned.
He said: “Jon Gallagher has hurt himself in a challenge with Liam Gordon and he has a problem with his tibia.
“He was struggling after that to have any real impact on the game. That one doesn’t look good.
“Bryson doesn’t look great at the minute either. Ojo, we need to wait and see how that settles. Off the back of Scott Wright’s injury this week he and Gal can play central so to lose both is a blow.”
It had all started so positively too as Sam Cosgrove saw his header from Greg Leigh’s cross hit a post.
The Dons soon moved up through the gears after Cosgrove’s header and by the time the game reached the half-hour mark they were ahead.
Ryan Hedges, the key performer in the previous outing, showed great composure to fire the ball past Zander Clark after Leigh and Lewis Ferguson had worked an opening for the Wales international in the box.
Saints may have arrived at Pittodrie propping up the Premiership but they were everything they have been in previous seasons under Tommy Wright – dogged, determined and organised.
With the home team’s energy levels dropping, Saints committed men forward on the break when afforded the opportunity and one such break resulted in them drawing level before the interval.
The goal seemed to happen in slow motion with Saints full back Scott Tanser finding Michael O’Halloran on the edge of the box with a low cross. The attacker had time to look up and beat Joe Lewis with a low effort which, despite not having pace on it, had just enough direction to squirm through the goalkeeper’s hands.
Lewis will be disappointed at conceding in the manner he did but his team-mates did little in the second half to turn the disappointment around.
McInnes said: “I thought St Johnstone were the team who looked more assured in the second half. I thought they were worthy of a point. I don’t think we did enough to win all three. The forced changes to Bryson and Ojo didn’t help matters in terms of getting that control but there’s no excuse really. The second-half performance wasn’t good enough. We need to do more to win the game.
“I just thought the dynamic of the team wasn’t right in there.”
Saints, buoyed by their equaliser, almost took the lead at the start of the second half when Murray Davidson rose to meet Jason Holt’s corner but the midfielder headed wide as a great chance was wasted.
Aberdeen, as was the case in the first half, were slow out of the traps and Saints were in the mood to make the most of their chance as Holt set-up Davidson again but his powerful effort was turned round the post by Lewis.
Aberdeen were in need of energy and Gallagher was sent on for Bryson as boss McInnes tried to regain the initiative.
But Saints thought their perseverance had paid off when referee Steven McLean pointed to the spot after Matty Kennedy had gone to ground under pressure from Andy Considine.
The Dons defender was stunned but, following a discussion with his assistant, McLean reversed his decision.
There was no relenting in the restless atmosphere among the home support, however, in what had fast become a frustrating and uninspiring afternoon for those in red.
The late surge from the home side never came with an injury-time deflected free kick from Lewis Ferguson, which Clark saved, the closest Aberdeen came to a winner.
A disappointing day for the Dons.
Wright’s spot of frustration
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright believes referee Steven McLean got his side’s big penalty decision wrong in their 1-1 draw with Aberdeen.
McLean pointed to the spot after Matty Kennedy went down under a challenge from Andy Considine before changing his mind and awarding a goal kick after consulting his assistant.
It was a huge call and one which Wright believes was the wrong one.
He said: “I’ve seen it. I don’t see how you can be 100% on it. I think there is contact on his left heel but he bounces straight back up. The only thing I’d say is the referee has the best view of the incident.
“It’s rare it is overturned but Derek McInnes believes it was the right decision and I think there was contact. That aside our performance was excellent and we deserved more out of it.
“I’ve just been in to see the referee. He said he had some doubt in his mind but he gave it and it is his assistant who doesn’t give it. Derek will say there is no contact but my players say there was contact and if there was the decision should have stood. I don’t send my players out to go to ground easily.”
Supporter’s view: Pittodrie paradox of having to now win twice
The Dons are finding it extremely difficult to win at home, even when they have been in complete control of matches.
Saturday was the ninth occasion this calendar year in which Aberdeen have opened the scoring in a domestic home fixture and Ross County, a fortnight ago, remain the only one of those opponents who failed to hit back with an equaliser.
Basement boys St Johnstone join Stenhousemuir, Queen of the South, Livingston and Motherwell in managing to recover – even temporarily – from what should historically be the crippling blow of falling behind at Pittodrie.It is a most perplexing phenomenon, particularly as it pertains to a period in which four of the Dons’ last six domestic clean sheets have been kept in the stadiums of the three teams to finish above them in last season’s table.
The figures certainly tend to suggest that the lower Aberdeen rate their opponents’ ability to breach their defence, the less care they take to prevent it from happening.
Questions will fairly be asked of personnel, but it is in large measure a consequence more of attitude and strategy.
Saints’ leveller here was extraordinarily slow in the works, which makes it incredible that, when Michael O’Halloran received its laborious final pass, there was no Dons defender within six yards of him in any direction. Flocking like wasps around the innocuous passing sequence in front of the Main Stand, they were buzzed around for long enough to switch off their concentration.
It was a loss in intensity which is becoming characteristic of such situations.
The more leads that Aberdeen drop, the foggier grows their plan to preserve them. Caught between pressing on to kill games off and shutting up shop for 1-0, the Dons are doing neither. It is hard enough to win matches at the top level without having to win them twice.