Paul Paton’s last-minute wonderful effort breathed life into Dundee United’s hopes of survival after a 2-1 win over Hearts.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men when Jordan McGhee was sent off for a second bookable offence and United took advantage with a Guy Demel header just before half-time.
10-man Hearts rallied in the second half and got an equaliser courtesy of an unstoppable effort from Jamie Walker.
At the other end, substitute Ryan Dow thought he had restored United’s advantage after lobbing Alexander only to see ball bounce up and over the bar.
Then Hearts spurned a glorious opportunity at the end but Dauda selfishly refused to square the ball for Nicholson who would have had a tap in.
United took full advantage as Paton, who had been struggling with injury all season, powered a fantastic 30-yard drive beyond Alexander for his first goal of the season.
The gap is now 11 points to Kilmarnock but they have a game in hand and after turbulent week at Tannadice, United boss Paatelainen believes they showed signs of enough spirit to get themselves out of trouble.
“There’s been a lot of criticism and rightly so. Nevertheless, it’s never nice and the way the boys bounced back from the disappointment of Tuesday was excellent.
“If we can keep showing that spirit, I feel there is a possibility we can stay up.
“It’s a long road and it’s just one win. But it’s a good win and the players’ attitude was excellent.”
Robbie Neilson was scathing in his assessment of referee Kevin Clancy.
“We went down to 10 men and dominated the game. Yes, we got beat with a wonder goal at the end but the decision with McGhee totally changed the game.
“You get a warning, then you get booked and then you go in and make a good tackle and you get a yellow card. I’ve seen it again on the video. There are things that referees look at – is it reckless, is it endangering, is it at pace, is it studs up? It was none of it and he plays the ball.”