Partick Thistle 1 PARS 1

A LAST GASP Brian Graham header denied Dunfermline an improbable smash and grab win at Partick Thistle tonight.

The centre forward struck in the 94th minute to rescue a draw for Ian McCall's bottom side, who were set for defeat after Euan Murray lashed in his second goal of the season with 17 minutes to go.

That came after the hosts had dominated proceedings, which included having a Stuart Bannigan penalty saved by Owain Fon Williams in the first half, and Zak Rudden clipping the top of the crossbar.

It looked like Stevie Crawford's side had defended what seemed like an onslaught of balls into their box brilliantly to a winning conclusion, but the Jags will feel they more than merited a point.

Dunfermline's players felt that their goalkeeper had been fouled by former Ross County hitman Graham before he hit the net, but while this felt like two points lost, on the balance of play it was one gained.

However, with Dundee - who Athletic travel to this Saturday - beating Ayr United, they find themselves three points behind the Honest Men, who are now fourth, having played a game more.

Pars head coach Crawford was still without the injured Lee Ashcroft, Ryan Dow and Kevin Nisbet, but made one change from the line-up that started Saturday's draw with Queen of the South.

Lewis McCann dropped to the bench in favour of Gabby McGill while, for Thistle, McCall named an unchanged team from the one that drew at leaders Dundee United at the weekend.

That meant there was no place in their squad for ex-Athletic pair Ryan Williamson and Joe Cardle, who are both injured, while Paul Paton and Danny Devine were both returning to one of their former clubs.

After two successive draws, Dunfermline went into this game knowing that victory - coupled with Dundee failing to win at home to Ayr United - would take them into fourth spot.

But the home side, six points adrift of eighth-placed Alloa at the bottom but without a win in their last nine in all competitions, had their own agenda in a bid to kick-start their bid to beat the drop.

They started brightly, with Lewis Martin and Fon Williams having to deal with a couple of decent balls into the box, and they were first to threaten.

It proved harmless enough, with Bannigan curling over from the edge of the area after Shea Gordon laid the ball into his path, but it came after a decent, patient passage of possession.

They were almost in again moments later through Rudden, with Martin there to make a timely block, and Fon Williams was soon called into his first piece of serious action.

After initially clearing Thistle's first corner, the hosts worked it back into the box and Graham, with his back to goal, did excellently to get an effort away that the Pars stopper was forced to tip over the bar.

But, with 20 minutes on the clock, the game's first big moment arrived - and how Athletic were indebted to their on-loan goalkeeper.

Having initially cleared a corner at the near post, Afolabi took out James Penrice inside the area as he picked up the loose ball, giving referee Steven Kirkland no option.

Partick skipper Bannigan stepped up but, low to his right, Fon Williams leapt across his goal to save and keep his team level.

At the other end, in a rare attack in the opening quarter, Murray headed a Dom Thomas free-kick well off target for Dunfermline, before Rudden latched on to a high ball but cleared both Fon Williams and the bar.

Traffic continued towards the visitors' goal, with former Falkirk man Rudden producing excellent work on the right to win a header and race away from Murray, crossing for Graham, but his header was held by Fon Williams.

The Pars did fashion a decent opportunity, with a well-worked move on the right allowing Ethan Ross to take a shot that was deflected behind, but they didn't retain enough of the ball throughout the opening period.

And, right on the interval, they were almost punished for it.

A long clearance sparked a foot race between Martin and Rudden, which the Pars defender looked to be winning, only for his opponent to steal in front of him.

It looked as though there was a slight shove by the home attacker, but quick as a flash, he got his foot to the ball to lob it over Fon Williams, who had raced from his line, but could only watch it clip the top of the bar.

Crawford responded to that opening 45 minutes by hauling both McGill and Thomas off at half-time, replacing them with Tom Beadling and Josh Edwards, in a bid to change the flow of the match.

With three central defenders, and two wing backs, Dunfermline sought to gain more territory further up the pitch, but Thistle remained a threat.

Reece Cole fired wide from range, while Comrie just about turned a dangerous ball from the right behind at the far post, but the Athletic almost snatched the lead 10 minutes into the second half.

With their first real chance, good play on the left saw Edwards slip the ball to Thomas, who sent a well-executed shot just wide from around 18 yards.

Fon Williams, though, was again in action, showing excellent reflexes to palm away Cole's well struck shot from distance.

As both Rudden and Penrice sought to pounce on the rebound, Martin made a tremendous tackle on the latter to avert the danger.

A promising break with Afolabi, who had Turner and Thomas in support, ultimately came to nothing as the visitors tried to stem the flow of play towards their goal, with both Cole and Rudden soon finding their routes blocked again.

But, with 17 minutes left, Dunfermline, almost incredibly, snatched the lead completely against the run of play.

Afolabi, on the left, waited for a support in a rare break and tried to pick out a team-mate, but the ball was shanked behind from a home defender at the edge of the box.

From the corner, Thomas sent a low ball to the feet of Murray, who unleashed a quite sensational shot that rocketed beyond Fox and into the back of the net from around 12 yards.

But, just as they looked like seeing the game out, Dunfermline conceded with practically the last kick of the ball.

In stoppage time, Afolabi looked for a penalty after going down under O'Ware's challenge, then moments later was penalised when he looked like he'd robbed an opponent to bear down on goal.

With the ball back in his team's half, Paul Paton conceded a corner and, although Cole's delivery was cleared out by Fon Williams, it was returned for Graham to head into the bottom corner of the net.

Although the Pars protested that their keeper was fouled, referee Kirkland had none of it, and Thistle earned a share of the points.

Partick Thistle: Fox, Penrice, O'Ware, Brownlie, Mayo, Bannigan, Graham, Cole, Gordon, Robson, Rudden.

Subs: MacKinnon, Mansell, Zanatta, Barjonas, O'Connor, Saunders, Sneddon.

Pars: Fon Williams, Comrie, Martin, Devine, Murray, Ross, Paton, Turner, Thomas, McGill, Afolabi.

Subs: Thomson, Beadling, Edwards, Todd, McCann, Fenton, Gill.

Referee: Steven Kirkland.