First-half goals from Devante Cole and Chris Long saw Dundee United’s winless run extend to eight games as Motherwell came out on top at Fir Park.
Cole gave ‘Well the lead on 23 minutes before strike partner Long put them two to the good five minutes later.
The Terrors enjoyed decent spells in the match, with Ryan Edwards pulling one back on 81 minutes, but the hosts held out to secure three valuable Premiership points and rise to ninth in the table.
United remain in seventh as they now prepare for the long trip north to Ross County on Saturday.
United showed three changes from last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Hibs as Edwards, Adrian Sporle and Ian Harkes came in for Mark Connolly, Mark Reynolds and Luke Bolton.
The visitors started brightly enough, keeping the ball and passing it well, but neither side had much in the way of clear-cut chances in the opening 15 minutes.
That all changed on 18 minutes, however, as the Steelmen’s imposing defender Bevis Mugabi forced a terrific save out of Benjamin Siegrist with his header from Barry Maguire’s free-kick.
Tony Watt should’ve scored from the resultant corner as the hosts grew into the contest.
Watt, again, was inches from connecting with an Allan Campbell ball across the box to steer ’Well into the lead.
On 23 minutes, though, Graham Alexander’s men did go in front as Cole bundled home inside the six-yard box from a Maguire corner.
Five minutes later, they were 2-0 up as Long stroked home fabulously from 25 yards as United tried to play out from the back, Cole picking off Harkes’ misplaced pass.
Lawrence Shankland saw a shot blocked on the half-hour mark with Cole scooping over up the other end soon after.
Heading into half time, Long smashed an effort goalward that rippled the side netting, with United looking increasingly imbalanced and lacking any sort of penetration.
Peter Pawlett checked in for Nicky Clark at the interval and he almost had an instant impact, racing down the left and firing an enticing ball across Motherwell’s six-yard box.
United had a few penalty claims turned down early in the second period with Marc McNulty’s on 52 minutes looking the most concrete, after the striker went down under the close attention of a home defender.
Sporle nodded wide on 55 minutes before, up the other end, Siegrist made a huge save to deny Watt Motherwell’s third.
It was beginning to resemble a game of basketball as the sides raced from one end to the other, with Shankland flashing a fierce effort just wide.
As the game ticked across the hour mark, it was United who looked most likely to score next as Shankland fired a free-kick on the edge of the area straight into the wall.
Long fired narrowly wide and Siegrist denied Cole one-on-one on 67 minutes as the Lanarkshire men threatened to put the game out of sight for the Tangerines.
Micky Mellon’s men huffed and puffed heading into the final 15 minutes, with captain for the night Calum Butcher finally forcing Liam Kelly into a save as he tipped the Englishman’s fierce strike around the post.
Edwards pulls one back but it’s too little, too late
From the resultant corner, United pulled one back as Edwards rose highest to connect with Sporle’s delivery and nod home his first league goal for the club.
The Tangerines pushed hard for an equaliser, with Sporle forcing Kelly into a heroic stop with two minutes of the 90 to go.
Despite their best efforts, United ran out of time in their quest for one more as their disappointing run continued.
Motherwell (4-3-3): Kelly (GK); O’Donnell (C), Mugabi, Lamie, Carroll; Crawford, Campbell, Maguire; Watt (McGinley 81 (Foley 89)), Cole, Long (Smith 73).
Subs not used: Morrison (GK), Hastie, Polworth, Johnston, Roberts and Magloire.
Dundee United (4-4-1-1): Siegrist (GK); Smith, Butcher (C), Edwards, Robson, Clark (Pawlett 45), Fuchs, Harkes, Sporle; McNulty, Shankland.
Subs not used: Deniz (GK), Powers, Reynolds, Hoti, Bolton, Mochrie, Appere and Neilson.
Referee: Don Robertson.