Tony Watt’s first half strike helped Motherwell cut the gap on fourth-placed Dundee United to one point on a miserable night at Fir Park.
Watt curled home a stunning 20-yard effort to help ten-man claim the win in the rain as Barry Maguire was red carded for the hosts.
That made it just one win in six for United as they prepare to face Celtic on Sunday.
Once again, United were without Dylan Levitt, Jeando Fuchs and Marc McNulty.
That gave Louis Appere another chance to lead the line for United after his goal at Ross County.
Nicky Clark also dropped out of the starting line-up to make way for Declan Glass.
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) November 30, 2021
Motherwell lost 3-0 to United’s city rivals Dundee at the weekend.
But they looked up for this one from the off and hemmed United in their own half for the first 25 minutes.
United’s normally watertight defence was looking leaky early on.
They gave Watt and Co. far too much room to roam and could have found themselves a couple of goals down within ten minutes.
Tony Watt gives Motherwell early lead v Dundee United
Watt had a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring in eight minutes as a Sean Goss free-kick found him unmarked.
But the Well striker couldn’t divert a header beyond Benjamin Siegrist.
Callum Slattery then fired a 20-yard effort over before the Fir Park side took a deserved lead in 11 minutes.
The strike was a thing of beauty as Watt coolly curled his effort into the top corner from 20 yards.
"A thing of beauty."
Measured finish from Tony Watt gives Motherwell the early lead ⚽️
Motherwell 1-0 Dundee Utd
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United did force some pressure of their own as they forced a series of corners.
But they failed to test Motherwell keeper Liam Kelly at all and Glass was sacrificed after just 41 minutes for Clark.
Glass touched the ball more than any other player in the first period (36 times) but it wasn’t his night.
Goss flashed a 20-yard strike wide of Siegrist’s goal as Well almost doubled their lead after 47 minutes.
United boss Tam Courts chose to shuffle his pack again as he took off Ilmari Niskanen.
Youngster Darren Watson came on for his first appearance in three months.
Watson made an instant impact.
His lung-busting runs on the flank and determination to get on the ball helped United gain a foothold on the game.
And their chances were improved as Maguire walked for a late tackle on Ian Harkes.
United were looking more threatening and Appere had a chance to level but he slipped at the key moment.
Teams for Motherwell v Dundee United
Motherwell: Kelly; Lamie, Mugabi, Maguire, Woolery, Van Veen (Carroll 83), Slattery, McGinley, Solholm Johansen (O’Donnell 58), Goss, Watt. Subs not used: Fox; Cornelius, Grimshaw, Roberts, Shields.
Dundee United: Siegrist; Freeman, McMann (Sporle 75), Edwards, Mulgrew, Hoti, Niskanen (Watson 57), Glass (Clark 41), Appere, Harkes, Pawlett. Subs not used: Carson; Sporle, Chalmers, Smith, Meekison.
Referee – Steven McLean