Maybe, just maybe, Dundee United have reached their rock bottom and this will be the night the bounce back began.
Without a league win since the second of January, the Tannadice club’s promotion hopes had been fading pretty much week on week – to such an extent that pessimists were even suggesting they could slip out of the play-off places.
The title may still be a long shot but this victory showed that there is fight left in Csaba Laszlo’s team and that in Matty Smith they could well have a gem of a player.
After Thomas Mikkelsen had cancelled out a Dom Thomas opener the forward, celebrating his 21st birthday, struck twice early in the second half to clinch the three points for United.
This was just the first of 13 games in 47 days but the win in Dumfries certainly represented an encouraging start to their hectic end of season schedule.
Following the defeat to Livingston over a fortnight ago, out went Scott McDonald, Grant Gillespie and Emil Lyng from the starting line-up, with Smith, Paul Quinn and Mikkelsen coming in.
There was no debut for Bilel Mohsni, with clearance not coming through in time for the former Rangers man to be available. William Edjenguele was in the squad but only on the bench.
Queens were first to threaten with less than a minute on the clock.
A cross from the left was hung up at the back post for Thomas to attack. His header didn’t have enough power or height on it to trouble Harry Lewis, though.
After seven minutes dangerman Stephen Dobbie tried his luck from 25 yards out. Again, however, Lewis wasn’t properly tested.
There hadn’t been a lot happening in the other box in the early stages but that changed on 14 minutes when Mark Durnan picked out Mikkelsen with a pin-point long diagonal ball. Had the striker’s finish matched the centre-back’s delivery it would have been 1-0 to United but the left foot volley was kept out by the feet of keeper Jack Leighfield.
Instead, a few minutes later it was 1-0 to Queens.
Thomas had the ball under his control and Quinn back-pedalling as he weaved his way towards the 18-yard line and the left foot curler which followed was a stunning finish that gave Lewis no chance.
United’s reply was swift and their equaliser equally impressive.
The ball into the box for Mikkelsen was nothing special but the centre-forward’s speed of thought and power to roll Callum Fordyce created space for a shot, which flew into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Just after the half-hour mark Thomas again worked his way into a shooting position but this time Jamie Robson got tight to him and blocked his effort.
A John Rankin long-range shot is a familiar sight to United fans but their keeper was nearly caught out by one and only just scrambled across his line to turn it past for a corner.
On 35 minutes the visitors’ cause was helped when an injured Dobbie had to be replaced by Ross Fergusson.
Seconds later Mikkelsen won them a free-kick in a good position, 25 yards out and central. Billy King took it but couldn’t get his shot past the Queens wall.
With five minutes left of the first half Thomas attempted a carbon copy of his goalscoring shot but this time he started it too wide of Lewis’s far post and it never had a chance of finding the bottom corner.
United had to see out the last few minutes before the break with 10 men after Durnan went down the tunnel to get a head wound seen to. The former Queens man was back out for the start of the second half, though.
The first two goals of the game were excellent but Smith’s, which gave United the lead three minutes after the re-start, probably topped them.
After controlling the ball well, the youngster shifted it on to his right foot and by the time Leighfield knew what was coming the rocket from 25 yards out was past him.
The confidence was returning to a United side that had lost its last three matches and a nice switch of play from right to left ended up with Robson striking a crisp shot that flew over.
The Tangerines had a two-goal advantage on 58 minutes, with Smith grabbing his second of the night. This time it was a poacher’s finish from close range after a King corner.
There was some good fortune for United when substitute Derek Lyle had a goal chalked off for offside after he had followed up a Joseph Thomson shot that Lewis couldn’t hold.
Late pressure from the hosts came to nothing and Smith almost claimed a hat-trick a minute from time.
Queen of the South – Leighfield, Marshall, Fordyce, Brownlie, Rankin (Derek Lyle 65), Thomas, Dobbie (Fergusson 35), Thomson, Jacobs, Mercer, Dykes (Murray 65). Subs not used – Curtis Lyle, Cameron, Todorov, Bearman.
Dundee United – Lewis, Murdoch, Scobbie, Durnan, Quinn, Mikkelsen (McDonald 74), King (McMullan 83), Stanton, Flood (Slater 87), Robson, Smith. Subs not used – Mehmet, Edjenguele, Gillespie, Chalmers.
Referee – Alan Muir.
Attendance – 1,480.