Dundee United moved into second place in the Championship and within three points of league leaders Ayr with this ultimately comfortable win over Alloa at Tannadice.
There were no less than five goals in a topsy-turvy, pulsating first half of football.
United were stunned when Alloa took a shock lead through Alan Trouten but bounced back strongly with a quickfire double from Nicky Clark and Pavol Safranko.
The home side then extended their lead thanks to Fraser Aird but Alloa made it 3-2 with Iain Flannigan netting.
United finally made certain of all three points late in the second half with sub Craig Curran the scorer to extend his side’s winning run to four games.
Home boss Robbie Neilson made three changes from the team that secured a notable victory up in Dingwall on November 10 with skipper Fraser Fyvie who suffered a hamstring strain during that game not being risked with Christoph Rabitsch taking his place in midfield while Stewart Murdoch and Billy King dropped to the bench with Callum Booth and Nicky Clark drafted into the starting XI.
The opening stages of the game were fairly even with both sides struggling for fluency with a succession of niggly fouls disrupting play.
United keeper Benjamin Siegrist had to look lively in the 11th minute, coming off his line to dive at the feet of Alloa’s Jake Hastie as he closed in on goal.
Shortly after, Clark tried his luck from long-range but his shot flew well wide of Wasps keeper Neil Parry’s right-hand post.
In the 16th minute, Aird cut in from the right and hit a shot from 20 yards but it was just wide.
However, United were stunned a minute later when the Wasps took the lead.
Dario Zanatta’s run in the home box was brought to a crunching halt by Paul Watson with referee Steven Kirkland pointing to the spot. Trouten stepped up and fired the penalty kick into the back of the net, sending Siegrist the wrong way.
Just two minutes later though, the Tangerines equalised when Aird teed up Clark from the right for a smart close-range finish past Parry.
United then stormed into the lead in the 21st minute when Aird fired in a corner from the left with Safranko rising highest to send a glancing header into the back of the net.
Neilson’s men looked to turn the screw with Alloa struggling to break out of their own half and it was no surprise when the home side extended their lead in the 35th minute.
Paul McMullan went down under a challenge from the Wasps Steven Hetherington with Mr Kirkland again pointing to the spot.
After providing assists at the first two goals, it was Aird’s turn to get his name on the scoresheet and he fired the penalty high into the back of the net.
However, Alloa refused to lie down and pulled one back in the 38th minute when Flannigan hit a stunning free-kick from 25 yards high past the despairing dive of Siegrist.
Zanatta then had a chance at the edge of the United box but he could not get enough on his shot and the home keeper made a comfortable save.
The ref blew the whistle at the end of a frantic first half with the fans and players no doubt glad of the chance to catch their breath.
United looked to extend their lead once more in a spell of early pressure in the second period with the next clear-cut opportunity coming in the 56th minute when that man Aird delivered another telling ball into the Alloa box with Parry having to make a great save low to his left to keep out a Clark header.
However, as the hour mark passed, Alloa were hanging in there with the home side’s advantage still a slender one.
And United hearts were in their mouths in the 69th minute when Zanatta was played straight through on goal, with William Edjenguele having to make a vital last-ditch tackle to snuff out the danger.
The Tangerines had a chance to put the game to bed in the 77th minute when Clark played in Aird but his shot from just inside the Alloa box flew well over the bar.
As the clock ticked down, the home fans were becoming increasingly nervous but that tension was finally relieved in the 85th minute.
Sam Stanton delivered a great pass into the feet of sub Curran and he made no mistake gleefully smashing the ball past the helpless Parry from 14 yards.
Attendance – 4,201.
Dundee United – Siegrist, Booth, McMullan (King, 72), Clark, Stanton, Safranko, Bouhenna, Rabitsch (Murdoch, 62), Edjenguele, Aird (Curran, 82), Watson.
Subs not used – Rakovan, Frans, Smith, Robson.
Alloa – Parry, Taggart, Dick, Roscoe, Graham, Hetherington, Robertson (Crawley, 67), Trouten, Flannigan, Hastie, Zanatta.
Subs not used – Henry, Spence, Burt, Brown, Aloulou, Shields.
Referee – Steven Kirkland.