Dundee won derby bragging rights and more importantly a place in the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup with this narrow but fully merited win over Dundee United at Dens.
The victory was sweet revenge for the Dark Blues following their defeat on penalties in the group stages of the competition two Sundays ago.
In a pulsating game that had the fans on the edge of their seats throughout, Faissal El Bakhtaoui opened the scoring in the first half with an incredible strike with Billy King equalising for the visitors just before the break. Paul McGowan then scored what proved to be the winner for the Dark Blues in the second 45.
Dundee boss Neil McCann had hoped that striker Sofien Moussa would be fit for the game despite having to come off during the defeat to Ross County at Dens at the weekend and being restricted to crutches on Monday.
However, the big Tunisian was absent from the squad with the manager drafting in Marcus Haber from the start.
Kerr Waddell who had to be withdrawn at half-time against the Staggies, was passed fit to take his place in a youthful centre-half pairing alongside Jack Hendry with skipper Darren O’Dea suspended. There were also recalls to the starting XI for McGowan and El Bakhtaoui with Mark O’Hara and Randy Wolters dropping to the bench.
Tangerines boss Ray McKinnon made three changes from the side that won up in Inverness at the weekend with Jamie Robson, Scott Allardice and Scott Fraser making way for Mark Durnan, Scott McDonald and Fraser Fyvie with the latter two making their starting debuts.
The home side had a chance as early as the fourth minute when Scott Allan swung a corner in from the right with Waddell’s scuffed effort trickling just past United keeper Harry Lewis’s right-hand post.
Dundee had the bit firmly between their teeth and they came close again when Allan delivered a free-kick from the right which was only half cleared to McGowan. The midfielder chipped the ball back into the middle of the Tangerines’ danger area with Haber sending a header just wide.
The Dark Blues then had their best opportunity of the match so far in the 20th minute when El Bakhtaoui nipped in ahead of William Edjenguele to find himself straight through on goal but he could not keep his composure and fired his shot wide.
El Bakhtaoui then did hit the target with a 25-yard shot but it was too straight and Lewis easily gathered.
However, it was third time lucky for the striker – and what a wonder goal it was. The ball broke to El Bakhtaoui who took a touch before hitting a spectacular volleyed effort from 20 yards that crashed off the underside of Lewis’s crossbar and into the back of the net to give the home side a deserved lead.
United had barely had a chance but they came storming back into the tie in the 40th minute. Sam Stanton burst down the right inside the Dundee penalty area and then produced an inch-perfect cutback to King at the back post who kept his cool to calmly fire past Bain with the teams heading down the tunnel all square at half-time for a well-earned breather.
Dundee were fast out of the blocks again and just two minutes after the restart, Waddell sent a header from an Allan free-kick over the bar with Roarie Deacon then having a goalbound shot blocked.
United though went straight back up the park with McMullan flashing a dangerous cross right across the face of the Dundee goal but there were no takers in a tangerine shirt.
The Dark Blues then came agonisingly close to taking the lead again when Allan pinged a corner in from the right with Hendry sending a header just inches past Lewis’s far post.
However, Dundee’s advantage was restored in the 64th minute. Allan took his time on the left before picking out McGowan who superbly side-footed the ball from 16 yards past Lewis and into the United net.
The Dark Blues came close once more in the 75th minute when El Bakhtaoui dug out a superb cross from the right with Haber sending a header goalwards only to be denied by a great save from Lewis.
Dundee hearts were in their mouths in the 82nd minute when Bain and his defence got into an almighty mix-up with the ball breaking to King on the edge of the home box but he could only steer his shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Deep in stoppage time, United had a final chance but McMullan sent a curling effort just over Bain’s bar with the final whistle being greeted deliriously by the home support.
Attendance – 10,472.
Dundee – Bain, Kerr, Holt, Kamara, Allan (Vincent, 85), McGowan, El Bakhtaoui, Deacon (Wolters, 76), Hendry, Haber, Waddell.
Subs not used – Parish, Hateley, Williams, O’Hara, Spence.
Dundee United – Lewis, Scobbie (Robson, 18), Durnan, Toshney, McMullan, McDonald, King, Stanton, Edjenguele, Briels (Keatings, 73), Fyvie (Murdoch, 84).
Subs not used – Mehmet, N’Koyi, Fraser, Flood.
Referee – Steven McLean.