Dundee United romped to victory in a demolition derby at Tannadice, smashing six goals past Dundee.
Remarkably, it was a repeat of the result on January 1, 2015 and was only the second time in their history that they have scored half-a-dozen in a game against their city rivals.
It was a United performance to strike fear into all of their Championship rivals but especially the Dark Blues, who fall seven points behind the league leaders after just four matches.
Robbie Neilson’s men were absolutely ruthless in front of goal in a match that had looked, at one stage in the first half, that it could go either way.
It was a wonder strike from young frontman Louis Appere that knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and they never recovered from the goal that put the Tangerines 2-1 in front.
It was United’s Calum Butcher who got the scoring started on 15 minutes after Dundee appeared to have had a legitimate goal from Danny Johnson ruled out for offside.
The Dark Blues levelled through Kane Hemmings on 22 minutes and it looked to be game on before Appere raised the roof with his superb volley.
The derby was United’s to lose now and they scored again through Lawrence Shankland’s spotkick and Butcher headed in his second before the break.
Sub Ian Harkes smacked in a fifth goal just a minute after the restart then Dundee substitute Andrew Nelson got one back for the visitors on 70 minutes.
United were not finished, however, and substitute Cammy Smith made it 6-2 on 83 minutes after an excellent pass from Appere.
Both clubs had been looking to end negative sequences, with United not having won a derby since May 2015 – six games ago – and the Dark Blues not having left Tannadice as winners since August 2004. It was to be the Tangerines’ night.
The atmosphere was electric as kick-off approached, with the home fans packed into the George Fox Stand and behind both ends and the away supporters down the dugouts side of the pitch.
The two teams made a couple of changes to their starting line-up.
The Tangerines brought back central defender Mark Connolly after injury and Peter Pawlett was promoted from the bench. That meant Butcher moved back to midfield from defence in place of Harkes, while Nicky Clark was a substitute.
Dundee, meanwhile, brought in Jamie Ness and Josh Todd for Paul McGowan and Finlay Robertson. The exclusion of 16-year-old midfielder Robertson was something of a surprise.
Dark Blues’ captain Ness got the action under way for one of the most eagerly-anticipated fixtures of the season.
United were on the attack first, though, when Appere sprayed the ball wide to McMullan on two minutes. He sent it back to Appere but the ball got caught under his feet and ran through to keeper Jack Hamilton.
On eight minutes there was uproar as Dundee had a goal chalked off for offside.
The move was started by Ness. He fed the ball to Hemmings, who then touched it on to Johnson. That was the crucial contact as it allegedly made Johnson offside. The Englishman drove his shot past keeper Benjamin Siegrist and the away fans celebrated but it was no goal. It looked to be legitimate but with no VAR the decision stood.
Dundee, who had full-back Cammy Kerr become the first booking of the night for a bad one on Pawlett, had their agony of missing out on the lead rubbed in by United as they opened the scoring on 15 minutes.
It was a great goal for the home team but a poor one for the Dark Blues.
There didn’t seem to be too much threat as the ball went from Connolly to Butcher, who was positioned inside the box and to the right. However, the English midfielder looped a header up and into the left-hand top corner as both Dundee defender Kerr and goalie Hamilton tried in vain to block it.
However, the Dens men dug in and equalised just seven minutes later.
Ness, who was having a fine game, was the architect as he delivered a freekick that was met by Jordon Forster’s diving header. That was blocked but the loose ball fell to Hemmings, who wheeled around before firing home from inside the six-yard box. It was definitely a deserved equaliser for the Dark Blues.
The Tangerines had to rejig things when Connolly went off injured on 25 minutes, with Harkes coming on and Butcher moving into the backline.
McMullan tested Hamilton with a low drive three minutes later but the Dundee keeper held the shot, while Dark Blues defender Jordan McGhee eventually returned to action after a couple of minutes getting a head injury seen to.
This topsy-turvy match swung back United’s way on 33 minutes as they regained the lead with a spectacular strike from Appere.
Pawlett chipped a freekick into the box and it was nodded back out to Appere. The young frontman took the ball on his chest then smashed a strike from 14 yards off the underside of the bar to make it 2-1 to the Tangerines.
It was 3-1 within a blink of an eye – or three minutes to be precise – when Dundee’s Declan McDaid had a rush of blood to the head and clattered into McMullan inside the box. Referee Kevin Clancy pointed to the spot and up popped Shankland to score his eighth goal in four league matches.
The United fans were in dreamland on 40 minutes when their team scored again.
It was a simple goal right off the training ground as Pawlett sent over a corner from the left and Butcher glanced a terrific header in off the far post for his second of the match.
If Dundee fans felt it had to get better for them after half-time then they had to think again just a minutes after the restart as the Tangerines went 5-1 up.
It was an absolute cracker of a strike form sub Harkes, who smashed his shot home from 25 yards. It took a deflection off Forster and left Hamilton with no chance.
The Dens men brought on McGowan for Johnson on 48 minutes and then Andrew Nelson for Todd on the hour as they tried to turn around what had become a rout.
United, who could afford to relax and manage the game, replaced Pawlett with Cammy Smith.
On 70 minutes, though, they gave themselves a bit of a lifeline when sub Nelson ghosted in at the back post and clipped a shot past Siegrist to make it 5-2.
That should have made the final 20 minutes more interesting but United eased home and almost made it 6-2 when Dundee defender Kerr had to block sub Smith’s shot on the goalline.
They did, though, repeat the scoreline of New Year’s Day 2015 when Smith drove the ball into the net with the help of a deflection.
Dundee United: Siegrist, L. Smith, Connolly (Harkes 25), Reynolds, McMullan, Pawlett (C. Smith 66), Stanton, Robson, Butcher, Shankland (Clark 78), Appere. Subs not used: Deniz, Sow, King, Watson.
Dundee: Hamilton, Kerr, McGhee (Meekings 68), Ness Forster, Todd (Nelson 60), Byrne, McDaid, Johnson (McGowan 48), Marshall, Hemmings. Subs not used: Ferrie, Curran, McPake, Robertson.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.