Dunfermline registered a sixth victory of the league campaign with an impressive 2-1 success away to Airdrie that drew praise from manager James McPake.
A first-half strike from Josh Edwards and a second after the break from Matty Todd racked up a deserved three points for the Pars.
Calum Gallagher threatened a grandstand finish for the Diamonds with an injury-time penalty, but McPake claimed he always felt “comfortable”.
The win stretches Dunfermline’s lead in fourth spot in the SPFL Championship to four points.
The chance to close the gap on Partick Thistle will come when they meet on Saturday.
Where was the Diamonds v DAFC drama?
Dunfermline’s games with Airdrie over the past 18 months, through their battles in League One to their opening meeting in the Championship, have been packed with incident.
Five red cards in five games tells a story, as does 16 goals scored and fluctuating fortunes across each 90 minutes.
When the Pars went to the Excelsior Stadium in February, they executed an incredible comeback from 3-0 down to snatch a late 4-3 victory.
There was no such drama on Saturday.
Right from the first whistle, the Fifers were clearly “on it”, as McPake would later describe his players.
Rarely, at least until the final 10 minutes and injury-time, were they troubled in defence, whilst in attack they were a threat.
For the first time in the last five meetings of these teams, there was no red card to alter the flow of the game in favour of either side.
Even the concession of a 91st-minute penalty, with some injury-time left to play, did not ruffle the East End Park side too much.
McPake said he felt “comfortable” and it was that kind of afternoon from start to, almost, finish.
The Pars over the sticky spell
There were growing murmurings of discontent following Dunfermline’s chastening Scottish Cup defeat to rivals Raith Rovers last month.
The lacklustre performance, the comprehensive 3-0 loss and the identity of the opponents, all added up to anger in the stands.
It left the Pars with just one win from seven matches.
But they have responded well to that low point.
To put a different spin on the statistics, they have now taken 10 points from a possible 15 in the league since the 2-1 win away to Morton on November 3.
Their only defeat in that sequence was a cruel late loss to league leaders Dundee United.
Saturday’s success against Airdrie was impressive and hinted at a team back on an upward trajectory.
But it was back-to-back wins for just the second time this season and maintaining the consistency will be the next task.
— Dunfermline Athletic (@officialdafc) December 9, 2023
No defenders, no problem for Dunfermline Athletic
McPake again had to make do without his first-choice central defensive trio of skipper Kyle Benedictus, Sam Fisher and Rhys Breen.
All are closing in on returns from differing injuries and will undoubtedly strengthen Dunfermline when they are back.
Benedictus, in particular, is an influential presence, both in the rearguard and with his leadership qualities.
But the Pars’ makeshift back three of full-back Aaron Comrie, midfielder Chris Hamilton and versatile defensive midfielder Ewan Otoo coped admirably against Airdrie.
Despite a lack of options in defence, McPake has been reluctant to abandon his favoured formation and the adaptability of Comrie, Hamilton and Otoo has made that possible.
Hamilton gave away plenty in height against Nikolay Todorov, but played smartly to prevent his former team-mate from causing too many problems.
A clean sheet – which would have been just a third in 14 league games – would have been reward for a determined defensive display, but it was still enough for three welcome points.
Importance of the first goal
Josh Edwards marked another fine display with the opening goal for Dunfermline to boost belief and set them on their way to victory.
After his strike against Arbroath, it was the second time in successive games the wing-back had made the breakthrough for the Pars.
In all but one of the six games when the Fifers have been first on the score-sheet this season, they have gone on to win.
On the other occasion, they drew the match.
Only once have they taken all three points when the opposition has scored first.
This is not to say they do not have the ability to recover from setbacks.
Twice – both times against Inverness Caley Thistle – they have also eked out draws when going behind.
But the statistics prove the importance of producing the kind of dominant start they produced against Airdrie on Saturday.