Jamie Robson’s second-half strike earned Dundee United a famous win against Rangers – the Terrors’ first in over seven years.
Not since a 3-1 Scottish Cup victory at Ibrox in 2014 had United downed the Gers – and it was the first league success the Tangerines have enjoyed over their fierce rivals since a 2-1 win at Tannadice in 2012.
The Terrors were good value for the three points in their first home game of the season – much to the delight of the 4,500 Arabs inside the stadium.
The result also brings the Light Blues’ 40-game unbeaten Premiership run to an end – with Steven Gerrard’s men suffering their first defeat since a 1-0 reverse to Hamilton in March last year.
Tangerines’ bright start despite Shanks sitting out
Lawrence Shankland’s omission from the matchday squad was the headline before kick off, however, amid mounting transfer speculation surrounding the Scotland international.
He was one of two changes from last weekend’s disappointing 2-0 opening-day defeat at Aberdeen as skipper Mark Reynolds also sat out and Logan Chalmers and Jeando Fuchs came in.
Buoyed by a vociferous returning home crowd, United started brightly.
A succession of cheer-raising corners was followed by a raking drive from captain-for-the-day Calum Butcher – but it was gratefully clutched by Gers keeper Jon McLaughlin.
Rangers’ threat remained, however, with Alfredo Morelos curling over moments later after being fed by Joe Aribo.
On 25 minutes, Light Blues skipper James Tavernier, in prime position for the usually-deadly right-back, fired a tame free-kick straight into the Terrors’ wall.
The Tangerines were comfortable as the game approached the half-hour mark, looking menacing down the flanks through Chalmers and Robson.
Butcher, Fuchs and Ian Harkes – making his 100th appearance in tangerine – also looked assured and were, at times, dictating the game with their battling qualities.
On 27 minutes, kid winger Chalmers’ in-swinging cross from the right was begging to be put home but the flight of the ball just evaded an onrushing Peter Pawlett.
As expected, the Glasgow side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but were limited in their testing of United No 1 Benjamin Siegrist.
Efforts like Morelos’ meek header on 35 minutes were about as close Gerrard’s men came in the early action.
The Tangerines saw a penalty shout waved away by referee Don Robertson as the home players claimed Connor Goldson handled in the box.
As Pawlett surged forward and was brought down by Goldson in the Gers’ half, it sounded like there was a full house inside Tannadice as an amalgamation of roars and protestations bellowed up.
From the resultant free-kick, Charlie Mulgrew’s stooping header forced a save out of McLaughlin as United looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
On 42 minutes, Tavernier had another bite at the cherry from a dead ball.
Although he was closer, the Englishman could only brush the top of the net with his curled 25-yard effort.
Tannadice erupts as Robson goal gives United a historic victory
The second 45 started on a disappointing note for United as vibrant talent Chalmers had to exit the pitch through injury – and was replaced by Adrian Sporle.
On 57 minutes, Siegrist was at full stretch to deny Tavernier from 30 yards as the visitors piled on the pressure.
Despite the change in personnel, boss Courts will have been happy with the way his team continued to fight and scrap for every ball against their illustrious opponents – perhaps a little jaded from midweek European exertions against Malmo.
And he certainly will have been delighted when they took the lead on 64 minutes through Robson.
Played in by sub Sporle’s deflected flick, the left-back – finding himself in the middle of the area – stabbed the ball beyond McLaughlin to send the home crowd wild.
It was just the 23-year-old’s third goal in tangerine and first since a 3-0 Championship win over Falkirk at Tannadice in November 2017.
Rangers tried to respond, with Goldson’s header from a corner flashing past the post a heart-in-mouth moment for all of a tangerine persuasion.
The introductions of Cedric Itten and Jermain Defoe saw the Gers really push for an equaliser as the fourth official raised the board to a cacophony of groans as he displayed five minutes were to be added.
However, the Terrors fought till the very last kick of the ball to secure a superb win over the Glasgow giants and give new boss Courts his first Premiership points in charge.
Dundee United (4-5-1): Siegrist (GK); L Smith, Edwards, Mulgrew, Robson; Chalmers (Sporle 50), Harkes, Butcher (C), Fuchs, Pawlett (Watson 80); Clark.
Subs not used: Carson (GK), Reynolds, Neilson, Freeman and Mochrie.
Rangers (4-3-3): McLaughlin (GK); Tavernier (C), Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Lundstram (Wright 69), Davis, Kamara; Aribo, Morelos (Defoe 82), Kent (Itten 79).
Subs not used: McGregor (GK), Patterson, Simpson and Arfield.
Referee: Don Robertson.