Lawrence Shankland raced to Dundee United’s rescue once again thanks to his 15th league goal of the season.
The hosts had tested the patience of their fans with a mediocre and lacklustre first half.
However, the free-scoring frontman headed the Tangerines 1-0 up on 62 minutes, the ball settling in the Thistle net after clipping the far post.
This was a top versus bottom fixture but you wouldn’t have known which was which for much of the game, as United failed to find any fluency.
Indeed, this was an ugly win but they all count when the end of the season comes around. What it also does is keep their 100% home record in the Championship intact.
Robbie Neilson’s men may have not been at their best but they did make it over the line and sit three points clear at the top going into Saturday’s trip to Inverness.
The shock selection news for United fans before kick-off was the absence of central defender Troy Brown.
That meant midfielder Calum Butcher moving again to cover at the back, with Adam King coming in to replace the tough-tackling Englishman in the middle of the park.
The Tangerines suffered a serious setback in under a minute when Peter Pawlett fell to the floor holding his knee. He couldn’t continue and was quickly replaced by Louis Appere.
A nice back heel from United’s Paul McMullan played in Appere inside the box on 10 minutes. The sub chose to drive a low cross towards Shankland instead of shooting and the ball was blocked.
United squandered a great chance to open the scoring on 17 minutes when McMullan robbed Stuart Bannigan just inside the Thistle half. He raced towards goal and had a clear path but could only shoot into the arms of goalkeeper Scott Fox.
Follow our special series at www.thecourier.co.uk/tay
Dario Zanatta had a strike for the visitors saved by goalie Benjamin Siegrist on 23 minutes before James Penrice was booked for late challenge on Appere on the half-hour.
Shankland then hit the ball goalwards after an Appere flick-on but the shot was never troubling Fox.
Partick had the ball in the United net on 35 minutes but the flag was up for offside long before Kenny Miller scooped the ball home.
The hosts went straight upfield and Appere smacked a shot at Fox’s near post, which was going in until the Thistle keeper fisted it away for a corner.
It was a frustrating first half to say the least and some United fans booed the players off the pitch.
United restarted well enough and Butcher headed just over after a flick on by Shankland on 47 minutes.
Two minutes later Shankland created space for himself and his strike from just outside the box struck the Partick bar.
Siegrist had to save from Dario Zanatta as the Jags threatened before the hosts replaced King with Sam Stanton on 59 minutes.
The Tangerines were still toiling to get any kind of fluency in their play but they finally made the breakthrough on 62 minutes.
Shankland was the scorer – once again – and it was a glancing header off an Appere cross from the left. The ball clipped the inside of the far post and nestled into the net – much to the relief of the hitherto fed-up home fans.
It was his 15th league goal for United, 17th in all competitions for his club and 18th for the season so far if you include the strike for Scotland against San Marino.
The goal appeared to settle the Tangerines’ jitters and Shankland even tried to beat Fox from the halfway line after seeing the Jags goalie off his line.
As United grew in confidence, Clark curled a terrific strike a few inches past the Thistle post on 75 minutes.
Joe Cardle tried a cheeky overhead kick for Partick that wasn’t far away before he was replaced by Gary Harkins for the final 10 minutes, with the former Dundee playmaker given his usual Tannadice welcome.
The home side brought on Paul Watson for Clark to help close things out as the match moved into stoppage-time.
Referee Greg Aitken played a whopping five minutes of added time – much to the bemusement of the United supporters – but he finally brought it to a close.
Dundee United: Siegrist, Smith, Reynolds, McMullan, Pawlett (Appere 3), Clark, Robson, Butcher, Harkes, Shankland, King (Stanton 59). Subs not used: Deniz, Sporle, C. Smith, Cooney, Watson.
Partick Thistle: Fox, Williamson, Penrice, McGinty, Cardle (Harkins 80), Bannigan, Miller (Mansell 68), Gordon, Palmer, Zanatta, Saunders. Subs not used: Sneddon, O’Ware, Slater, De Vita, Kakay.
Referee: Greg Aitken.