They may have won ugly but the result was beautiful for Dundee United.
On a day when even the seagulls circling above Gayfield were blown off course by the wind, the Tangerines took another hugely significant step towards promotion.
This gritty victory –their eighth in a row – sent the runaway Championship leaders 13 points clear of second-placed Inverness Caley Thistle, who lost 3-1 away to Partick Thistle.
Even city neighbours Dundee did United a favour by stopping the Dunfermline revival in its tracks at Dens Park.
Robbie Neilson’s men are sitting pretty, to say the least, but you couldn’t exactly describe their performance as easy on the eye.
Indeed, even their winning goal wasn’t bonnie, with Sam Stanton’s shot deflecting into the net off the head of Lichties’ player Colin Hamilton.
In the first half, with the gales blowing against the visitors, it was almost painful to watch United goalie Benjamin Siegrist send kick after kick either out of play or up into the air only to be blown back his way.
Arbroath, conducted by the smart and street-wise Dick Campbell in the dugout, made their life hell at times as the hosts coped better with the conditions.
For example, man-of-the-match Bobby Linn had a freekick pushed over the bar before it took a brilliant saving tackle by United’s Paul Watson to stop Scott Stewart in the process of shooting when just yards from goal.
The aforementioned Hamilton should have levelled when a long-distance freekick from Linn was parried towards him by Siegrist. However, he somehow kicked fresh air and the chance was gone.
That was all in the first half but the home side kept going in the second, their best opportunity after the restart coming when Linn’s low cross whizzed across the face of the United goal just out of reach of Luke Donnelly.
It was the Tangerines, though, who had the greatest chance to score in the second period when Nicky Clark was brought down in the box by Arbroath goalkeeper Derek Gaston on 54 minutes. Clark picked himself up and took the kick only for the keeper to guess right and make the save.
Despite that setback, it was the 3,000-plus away supporters who were cheering at full-time.
Clark said: “We knew it would be tough and the conditions weren’t great.
“That made it very hard and the game was scrappy.
“But we showed we can win games like that.
“We battled away well and that’s a massive three points for us.
“That was a really difficult week for us but we have come through it with three wins and nine points.
“Alloa at home, Morton away and then Arbroath – we showed what we are all about.”
Clark had heartfelt praise for the tangerine travelling army that packed into their end of Gayfield, stressing that they helped the players get over the line.
He added: “They have backed us in numbers down here that can only be described as incredible.
“They also went down to Morton on what was a horrible night.
“It’s great and I would stress that the boys really appreciate it.
“I want to say a massive thank you to the supporters for coming down to Gayfield and backing us the way they did.
“It helps when you hear them singing along.
“You look behind the goal and see them all standing and cheering us.
“It definitely gives you that extra wee bit towards the end of the game.
“I wouldn’t say we were hanging on but they (Arbroath) were throwing everything at us and the support helped.”
Clark, of course, was thwarted at the penalty and Arbroath goalie Gaston said: “It was me who gave it away and once you do that you are hoping you can redeem yourself.
“Fortunately, I went the right way and managed to get strong hands on it and push it away.
“I think at 1-0 we always thought we had a chance and I believe we were in the game for the whole 90 minutes.
“Had the penalty gone in we would have been playing against the wind and been 2-0 down. It would have been a lot to ask for us to come back from that so it was an important save.
“It gave us a lift and we pushed on to try and get the equaliser. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
“We created chances and on another day we would have taken one of them.”
As for Stanton’s strike that beat him, Gaston felt United got the rub of the green.
“I don’t think he caught it too well,” added the Arbroath goalie.
“I don’t think it was a clean strike and Colin Hamilton just instinctively stuck his head out to try to get something on it.
“It went into the corner of the net when I was just standing waiting to catch the ball. It would have been a fairly comfortable save.”
Despite losing, the hosts should find comfort in three fine performances in a week against first Dundee, Ayr United and then the Tangerines.
They only got two points for their efforts but their fitness, organisation and ability have all shone through.
Lichties boss Dick Campbell said: “Any manager worth their salt couldn’t fault their part-time players after that – they were outstanding.
“We got beaten by a gross bit of bad luck. It was an own goal come deflection.
“Robbie (Neilson) has won the game 1-0 and got three points but from Dick Campbell’s point of view I am just disappointed we didn’t get anything out of the game.
“There was nothing between the two teams – nothing – and anybody who knows anything about football could see that.
“United are stacked with quality while we worked our backsides off so I can’t complain. They scored and we didn’t.”
As for the United gaffer, he was understandably pleased with a nine-point haul from three difficult to negotiate matches against Alloa, Morton and Arbroath.
Neilson said: “We knew that coming up here it would be a very difficult game.
“They played Dundee last week and drew 1-1, beat Inverness 3-0 and had only lost once all season in the league at home.
“It is probably one of the hardest venues to come to in the division. You can catch teams cold because they find it is a tight pitch, very windy and Arbroath know how to play the game here.
“All credit to them – we were lucky to get away with three points.
“We are delighted because it has been a great week.
“We had, in my opinion, three really challenging games against teams that, on paper, we were probably expected to beat. We had to go out and do it and we have managed to do it.
“When you are at a club like Dundee United you have to win every week and this sets us up for another big game against Ayr next Saturday.”