Tidser (46), MacLean (63) – Semple (68), Todd (76)
Morton were held to an opening-day draw after visitors Queen of the South fought back from two down to claim a point in this Ladbrokes Championship curtain-raiser at Cappielow.
Michael Tidser opened the scoring on 46 minutes and Motherwell loanee Ross MacLean added a second with a fierce finish just after the hour to seemingly set the Ton on their way to victory.
But Doonhamers defender Callum Semple side-footed a Stephen Dobbie cross into the net before Josh Todd levelled with 14 minutes remaining to ensure an exciting game would end all square.
The Ton kicked off the league campaign with the proverbial wind in their sails following consecutive Betfred Cup victories over Stenhousemuir and Albion Rovers,
Manager McKinnon made five changes to the team that thumped Albion 5-0, with a number of players available again after recovering from various injuries and ailments.
Ryan Scully, Gregor Buchanan, Charlie Telfer, Chris Millar and Rory McKeown, whose international clearance was received that morning, replaced Derek Gaston, Kerr Waddell, Gary Oliver, Connor Bell and Jack Iredale.
After starting the first three League Cup group fixtures, former Partick Thistle keeper Scully was restored between the sticks and produced a first-half performance that went a some way to keeping the game goalless.
On 14 minutes, he was forced to look sharp and drop to his left to smother from Stephen Dobbie after the Queens talisman had shaped to bend a low free-kick around the wall and inside the right post.
Scully would, however, have had little chance of preventing Lyndon Dykes from finding the net should the imposing frontman have hit the target with a free header from a Jordan Marshall cross rather than nod wide.
Ton survived another scrape unscathed on the half hour when Dobbie cut out a Buchanan pass and arrowed in on goal only to see a last-ditch lunge from the covering Lee Kilday divert his drive wide of the left post.
Then, in a remarkable moment that will live long in the memory of those who were there, Scully produced a breathtaking double save to keep out both Dobbie and Dykes one after the other.
Scully first plunged to his right to brilliantly block Dobbie’s side-footed volley, followed up with a jaw-dropping fingertip save to turn Dykes’ point-blank follow up header onto the bar before finally clutching on the line.
Although the hosts did not ask any questions of Doonhamers shot-stopper Alan Martin at the opposite end, they enjoyed their fair share of possession and the half was not as one-sided as a recount of chances would suggest.
That said, a lot of credit for the fact the match remained goalless at the break went to Scully for his wondersave, for which he was congratulated by Derek Gaston as he came off the park at half-time.
Probably the best double save I’ve ever seen ?? https://t.co/VScXQ6KNlT
— Derek Gaston (@dgaston_1) August 4, 2018
Whatever the management team said at the interval certainly had the desired effect, as the Ton not only came out and threatened the visitors’ goal immediately but converted the opportunity to take the lead.
Just 40 seconds of the second period had elapsed when Telfer profited from a misplaced pass and fed the ball to Jim McAlister in a central position.
The Cappielow captain then slipped an angled pass out to who else but Tidser peeling away to the left, and the playmaker applied the finishing touch, clipping a cool finish across Martin and inside the right post.
It has been a sensational start to the season for the 28-year-old, the goal taking his tally to four in his first five appearances, not to mention the three assists he has to his name too.
Another player who has hit the ground running this term is Motherwell loan winger MacLean, and he fired Morton into a two-goal lead on 63 minutes.
It was Bob McHugh who provided the assist, his second in two games after teeing up Connor Bell against Albion, by sending his former Fir Park team-mate racing clean through on goal with a brilliantly-weighted pass.
After breaking clear, MacLean slowed to pick his spot and hit the target with ferocious drive that Martin got a hand to only to be convincingly beaten by the power as the ball swerved off his glove and inside the left post.
It felt like there would be no way back for Queen of the South – until, from out of nowhere, centre-half Semple got on the end of a Dobbie cross from the right and cushioned a simple left-foot volley past Scully.
Just five minutes had elapsed between the goals, and Palmerston gaffer Gary Naysmith was celebrating on the sidelines again after watching his side pull level inside a further eight minutes of play.
It was another disappointing goal from the home perspective, Todd stroking home the rebound after Scully had blocked his initial effort at the end of a rapid Queens counter-attack led by ex-Ton man Gary Harkins.
Both teams had half-chances in the final quarter of an hour but nothing that truly threatened to snatch all three points on the opening day.
An entertaining score draw was a result that neither side would have sniffed at before kick-off, but circumstances would dictate that a point apiece was a more pleasing outcome for the Dumfries outfit.
14. Tumilty 2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 25. McKeown
7. Millar 8. McAlister (c) 12. Tidser
6. Telfer 11. McHugh 19. MacLean
Subs used: 20. Bell (for MacLean, 73), and 18. Oliver (for Telfer, 73).
Subs not used: 3. Iredale, 5. Waddell, 10. R. Thomson, 22. Armour, 1. Gaston (gk).
Booked: Tidser (37), Telfer (37), McHugh (50).
Queen of the South (442): Martin; Doyle, Fordyce, Semple, Marshall; Stirling (Murray, 82), Jacobs, Harkins (Bell, 90+2), Todd; Dobbie, Dykes
Subs not used: Mercer, Watson, Tremble, Gourlay (gk).
Booked: Semple (37), Harkins (56), Stirling (70).
Referee: Gavin Duncan
⭐️ Star Man: Ryan Scully
Image (main): Gary Bradley
Image (Inset): Ross Cameron