Dundee United extended their winning run to eight games thanks to a tight 1-0 victory over impressive Arbroath at Gayfield.
The importance of the result became clear when Robbie Neilson’s men discovered at the final whistle that they had moved 13 points clear at the top of the Championship courtesy of second-placed Inverness Caley Thistle’s defeat at Partick Thistle.
The Tannadice men only waited six minutes to open the scoring, thanks to Sam Stanton’s deflected shot.
Arbroath had plenty of possession and chances but it was the visitors who should should have scored again on 54 minutes, with Nicky Clark’s penalty saved by goalie Derek Gaston.
The Tangerines were unchanged from the team that kicked off at Morton on Tuesday, while the Lichties made one change by bringing in Luke Donnelly for David Gold.
The wind was swirling around Gayfield as the match started and that posed an immediate challenge to United goalie Benjamin Siegrist, whose kicks were getting blown back towards him.
The massed ranks of the away support only had to wait six minutesfor their team to score.
A freekick from Clark wasn’t cleared properly by Arbroath and the ball eventually broke to Stanton. He let fly with a shot that took a deflection on its way into the net.
The hosts tried to hit back on 10 minutes when United’s Liam Smith conceded a freekick just outside the box. Bobby Linn took it and his fine strike had to be pushed over the bar by Siegrist.
Just as they did against Dundee the previous week, the Lichties were having a go and on 24 minutes it took a terrific tackle right in front of goal from defender Paul Watson to rob Scott Stewart just as he prepared to shoot.
On 28 minutes, United survived a real scare as the home team enjoyed a great spell. Linn took a freekick from 35 yards out that Siegrist could only parry. It seemed to fall perfectly for Arbroath’s Colin Hamilton but he completely missed his kick and the danger was cleared.
The Tangerines were getting pinned back by the Lichties but they had two attempts on the home goal in quick succession, with keeper Derek Gaston saving from Appere then Lawrence Shankland shooting over from 25 yards.
Arbroath continued to look for a leveller and Linn blasted over right on the half-time whistle.
Donnelly broke forward for the hosts after the restart but his shot flew well over.
United then squandered a glorious chance to make it 2-0 on 54 minutes.
Clark was sent clean through by a pass and skipped around goalie Gaston, who brought him down. The Tangerines’ player picked himself up to take the spotkick but the keeper made a terrific save.
United defender Watson nodded a Clark corner over on 64 minutes before Paul McMullan replaced scorer Stanton.
McMullan was right into the action and a great run towards the near post ended with an attempted cutback that was cleared.
Siegrist was the Tangerines’ saviour five minutes later when he tipped Thomas O’Brien’s header over the bar.
There was another scare for the visitors when Linn’s low cross from the right zipped across the face of the United goal but there were no takers.
United hung on and they are now looking down at the rest from on high.