Dundee United lost their third Championship game in a row as they fell to a limp 2-1 defeat at Raith Rovers.
Goals either side of half-time from Craig Barr and Ryan Hardie gave Rovers a vital three points and means United are now four points behind Falkirk and Morton with Simon Murray’s late goal not enough to prevent defeat.
Manager Ray McKinnon made four changes to his starting XI and in the process altered the set-up, starting 4-3-1-2, and the Tangerines looked good in the early stages.
In the opening minutes, Lewis Toshney had a deflected header which looped into goalkeeper Pavol Penksa’s hands then United should have opened the scoring on seven minutes.
Thomas Mikkelsen flicked on Tony Andreu’s cross and William Edjenguele had the chance at the far post but didn’t connect and the opportunity was gone.
The home side hadn’t been in it but they were almost gifted the lead as a clearance ricocheted off Willo Flood and into the path of striker Ryan Hardie. Cammy Bell, though, kept the youngster out.
Murray had a decent shout for a penalty but shortly before the break, defensive fragility struck United again from a set-piece.
A free-kick from wide was floated in by Chris Johnston and Craig Barr rose unmarked to power a header into the ground and past Bell.
After the restart, another free-kick and another goal for the home side as the Tangerines fell two behind.
Launched in from the halfway line, the ball wasn’t cleared and fell for striker Hardie who finished well from an angle.
United made changes with Alex Nicholls and Nick van der Velden replaced Frank van der Struijk and Thomas Mikkelsen as they looked for a way back into the contest.
Both Murray and Andreu had efforts which didn’t test keeper Penksa too much as Rovers looked to see the game out for what would be an important three points in their battle against relegation.
Ali Coote came off the bench and looked bright, opening up space for himself but striking an effort straight at the keeper.
With 15 minutes to go, Flood had an effort from 25 yards and Penksa did well to beat out the deflected effort before Coote tried to follow-up but couldn’t bundle home.
Then with 10 minutes to go, United had the lifeline they were after as Murray slotted home after a Flood free-kick was headed out.
Raith almost regained their two-goal advantage as Barr leapt from a corner but saw his effort come back off the post.
And with 87 minutes on the clock, the Tangerines had the chance they were looking for as centre-back Mark Durnan found himself through on goal, he held off Jean’Yves M’Voto but saw his effort saved by the keeper.
United pushed for the equaliser but Raith held on for the points.
Raith: Penksa, Thomson, Callachan, M’Voto, Benedictus, Johnston, Thompson, Matthews, McManus, Barr, Hardie.
Dundee Utd: Bell, Durnan, Toshney, Murdoch (Coote 68), Murray, Edjenguele, Flood, Andreu, Van der Struijk (Nicholls 55), Robson, Mikkelsen (Van der Velden 58).