Jamie McGrath netted a last-minute penalty winner against Hibernian to earn Dundee United a first victory in 12 cinch Premiership matches.
United looked set to pay for some missed chances until Will Fish’s clumsy challenge on Steven Fletcher allowed McGrath the chance to secure a 2-1 win against a side he nearly joined 18 months ago.
Fletcher had given United an early lead against his former club before missing one of two excellent chances the home side had to extend their advantage.
Substitute Mykola Kuharevich equalised in the 70th minute following some slack defending and Kevin Nisbet hit the bar with a free-kick for the visitors, who were made to pay for on-loan Manchester United defender Fish’s naive defending.
Jim Goodwin’s first win as United manager at the fifth attempt cut United’s deficit on Ross County back to two points and moved them just three behind Kilmarnock.
Hibs suffered a fourth consecutive defeat to remain only one point above seventh-placed Livingston with two matches until the split.
Charlie Mulgrew’s return to fitness saw United club captain Ryan Edwards drop back on the bench, while Kai Fotheringham came into midfield. Hibs manager Lee Johnson made four changes, one of them enforced through a knock for Paul Hanlon. Joe Newell returned to the starting line-up while Elie Youan was back from suspension.
Before the match United paraded Ivan Golac, the manager for the club’s first Scottish Cup triumph in 1994, following his appearance at an event in Dundee the previous night.
The feelgood factor from that piece of nostalgia was almost wiped out within two minutes when Harry McKirdy whipped in a low ball from the right. Nisbet looked certain to score from three yards but his bundled effort hit off the inside of Mark Birghitti’s foot and behind for a corner.
United were ahead inside eight minutes. Aziz Behich broke forward from his wide midfield position and, at the second attempt, delivered a perfect cross for Fletcher to head home unchallenged from six yards.
The home side had been sitting deep even before the opener and continued to largely play behind the ball in the first half, denying Hibs any further clear-cut chances and coming close on the counter-attack when Behich curled wide.
United almost got off to a flying start in the second half as well when Behich supplied Fletcher with a perfect lay-off but the experienced striker volleyed over from 12 yards.
Behich later set up Ilmari Niskanen only for the substitute to sweep the ball over from 10 yards.
United were quickly made to pay. Mulgrew misjudged Marijan Cabraja’s cross and Kuharevich chested down before volleying in off the bar from eight yards.
Hibs initially looked the likelier team to snatch all three points. Nisbet hit the bar from 25 yards and Youan shot wide from a decent opportunity 18 yards out.
But Fish did not spot Fletcher coming from behind him to meet a throw-in and the striker got to the ball first before going down under the defender’s attempted clearance.
McGrath sent David Marshall the wrong way and Ewan Henderson, Nisbet and Kuharevich all missed half-chances for Hibs in stoppage-time.