A late Scott McDonald strike saw Dundee United into second place in the Championship after a deserved 2-1 victory over Morton at Tannadice.
The home side controlled much of the contest but finding the net was again the problem until James Keatings broke the deadlock after 65 minutes. Morton’s Bob McHugh threatened to spoil United’s afternoon by equalising 10 minutes later before McDonald popped up with a poacher’s goal with seven minutes to go.
Tangerines boss Ray McKinnon made two changes from the 0-0 draw at Falkirk as striker James Keatings shrugged off a dead leg to replace Sam Stanton while William Edjenguele was in for Paul Quinn at centre-back.
Keatings’ recovery gave him the chance to join Scott McDonald in a front pairing as the Tangerines went 4-4-2 from the start.
The game began quietly as the two sides eased their way into the game but it was the home side that made the first opening as Lewis Toshney was played in down the right by Paul McMullan but his low cross was cleared.
On 22 minutes, McDonald had the net rippling but could only find the side-netting after Morton keeper Derek Gaston flapped at a Fraser Fyvie cross.
Moments later, McMullan had a fierce long-range effort pushed wide by Gaston before Fyvie followed his team-mate’s lead with a good drive of his own from outside the area that went just wide on the half-hour.
United were beginning to assert themselves on the contest and it seemed only a matter of time before one of their efforts found the back of the net.
First Keatings played a nice one-two with McMullan on the left before his low volley bobbled wide before the striker came even closer, nodding a header towards the far corner only for Gaston to keep it out with a superb save.
Morton had been a threat all afternoon with the pace of striker Jai Quitongo but it was midfielder Ross Forbes who had their best effort of the opening period, curling just wide on 42 minutes.
The half-time break came and even though it had been a step up in terms of performance from the Tangerines, the goals still weren’t coming.
Straight after the restart, Keatings was determined to change that and unleashed a fine effort that beat keeper Gaston but also beat the post, finding only the side netting.
United were still making most of the running but Morton showed their threat on 62 minutes as Quitongo raced beyond the challenge of Stewart Murdoch but couldn’t beat the big frame of keeper Harry Lewis.
That would be the end of Quitongo’s game, however, as he limped off shortly afterwards.
The Tangerines, though, finally broke the deadlock after 65 minutes and it was a goal worth waiting for.
A fine attacking move saw King and McDonald cut through the visiting defence with McMullan flicking the ball through to Keatings. The former Hibs man smashed in on the volley with Gaston getting a touch.
It was no less than the home side deserved and they were almost two ahead on 70 minutes as Fyvie curled a shot just wide of the far post with the keeper beaten.
They were pegged back, though, five minutes later after Edjenguele failed to deal with a cross to the far post and Ricki Lamie cut the ball across for substitute Bob McHugh to knock in from close range.
Morton weren’t done there, however, and threatened again moments later after a slack Edjenguele pass was picked off but his central defensive partner Mark Durnan saved his blushes this time.
And Durnan was heavily involved at the other end on 83 minutes as United re-took the lead.
The centre-half rose well to meet Billy King’s cross only to find the base of the post, the chance wasn’t gone though as McDonald was on hand to knock in the rebound.
Jim Duffy’s men pushed for another leveller, creating panic in the home defence in the closing stages.
The Tangerines, though, kept them out to hold on to a deserved three points, moving into second in the table two points behind next week’s opponents Dunfermline.
Dundee Utd: Lewis, Durnan, Toshney (Murdoch 28), McMullan, McDonald, King, Edjenguele, Robson, Keatings (N’Koyi 81), Briels (Stanton 81), Fyvie.
Morton: Gaston, Murdoch, O’Ware, Lamie, Doyle, Oliver (Armour 80), Forbes (Harkins 86), Quitongo (McHugh 62), Thomson, Tidser, Russell.