It wasn’t a vintage display but Dundee United did enough to see off League One Forfar and earn themselves a Scottish Cup quarter-final place.
The Loons did themselves proud at Station Park, matching United all over the pitch, but the Premiership side managed to apply a finishing touch that saw them through.
Forfar very much had control of the first period, executing their game plan to perfection.
However, once Peter Pawlett found a way through their crowded defence with a daisy-cutter that nestled into the back of the net off the post on 56 minutes, the Loons didn’t look like coming back.
It should’ve been more comfortable but United got the job done to set up an all-Premiership tie with either Aberdeen or Livingston in the next round.
Benjamin Siegrist was due to start between the sticks but went down injured in the warm-up. Back-up stopper Deniz Mehmet took the gloves, with goalie coach Neil Alexander on the bench.
Forfar, hamstrung by cup-tied players, named just four substitutes with interim boss Gary Irvine starting in the middle of a back three.
Loons start well as United struggle to get into gear
Forfar were first to threaten on three minutes with left-winger BJ Coll curling a free-kick over the bar from 20 yards.
The Loons continued to put the pressure on their top-flight visitors, with experienced hitman Steven Doris blazing a glorious chance from Graeme Holmes’ corner over the bar.
Home keeper Marc McCallum nearly gifted Lawrence Shankland a golden opportunity to open the scoring as he latched on to a short pass back and skipped past the United marksman twice, eventually clearing his lines.
Defending with eight men behind the ball, the League One side were resolute in their rear-guard action as they tried to keep it tight and break on the Tangerines.
However, a terrific cross-field pass from Jamie Robson sliced open the Forfar backline like a fork through a piping hot bridie on 23 minutes.
With an audacious diagonal, the left-back picked out Shankland, who evaded two defenders, but McCallum was out quickly to deny the United marksman from close range.
Soon after, though, the Loons were back countering to good effect as Daniel Scally picked out Jordan Allan.
The striker found himself bearing down on goal, however, the 22-year-old could only skew his effort wide with the Terrors’ backline in hot pursuit.
McCallum was called into action 10 minutes before half time, springing to his right to clutch Clark’s header across goal from a Liam Smith cross.
Entering the interval, Scott Shepherd went down in a heap on the edge of the box after Deniz clattered him clearing a loose ball.
From the edge of the D, Clark crashed a free-kick off the post in the final action of the opening period as the third-tier basement boys went in level with top-flight United.
Pawlett turns on the style to break Station Park deadlock
Ten minutes into the second half Calum Butcher arrowed a raking drive narrowly wide of McCallum’s right-hand post after being fed by Argentine winger Adrian Sporle.
Just a minute later, though, Pawlett gave United the lead, bobbling an effort in off the post from a short corner routine.
Sporle picked out Smith on the edge of the area who laid it on a plate for the 30-year-old to roll the ball past a helpless McCallum.
The Tangerines started to dominate proceedings as the half went on with Pawlett, once more, the tormentor-in-chief.
The midfielder came close to doubling his and United’s tally from 25 yards with another low shot that cut and bounced over a dry astroturf surface.
Shankland, no doubt disappointed not to have scored, was replaced by Louis Appere on 71 minutes as Harkes also checked in for Butcher.
The Loons – operating with a very limited bench – also made a swap, bringing on St Johnstone loanee Jordan Northcott for Shepherd.
The Saints youngster had an instant impact, latching on to Coll’s whipped left-foot delivery and nodding close enough to goal to give Deniz a scare.
With five minutes left, Marc McNulty forced McCallum into a save as he struck across goal.
The Forfar stopper had to look alive as he spilled and ricocheted the ball into team-mate Murray Mackintosh before recollecting.
The hosts threw everything at it in an attempt to draw level and force extra time but Micky Mellon’s men stood firm to progress to the last eight.
Aberdeen or Livi lie in wait for Terrors in last eight
United will meet the winners of Aberdeen’s clash at Livingston tomorrow in the quarter-finals.
That tie will take place next weekend with the Tangerines set for a trip to the North East or West Lothian as they move just one step away from Hampden.
Forfar Athletic (3-5-2): McCallum (GK); Nditi, Irvine, Meechan (C); Shepherd (Northcott 72), Mackintosh, Holmes, Scally, Coll; Doris (Fenwick 60), Allan.
Subs not used: Hoban (GK) and Hill.
Dundee United (4-1-2-1-2): Deniz (GK); L Smith, Edwards, Reynolds (C), Robson; Butcher (Harkes 71); Pawlett (Fuchs 80), Sporle; Clark; Shankland (Appere 71), McNulty.
Subs not used: Alexander (GK), Connolly, Bolton, Watson, Hutchinson and K Smith.
Referee: Don Robertson.