A first win at McDiarmid Park in four years has given Dundee United’s survival hopes a huge boost.
After taking a first half lead through Ryan Dow, the Tangerines had to survive the last half hour with 10 men, Coll Donaldson being controversially sent off for a ‘last man’ tackle on Chris Kane.
With Kilmarnock drawing against Partick Thistle, United have closed the gap to five points with a game in hand.
For Saints, other results mean they dropped to fifth and their top six place has yet to be mathematically assured.
United nearly made the perfect start.
Within the first minute Dow out-paced Joe Shaughnessy and then squared the ball across the box. John Rankin took a clumsy first touch, however, and he wasn’t able to get a shot on goal.
The Saints cause wasn’t helped by Chris Millar trudging off after 14 minutes. It has been a familiar sight this season, the only difference this time being it looked to be a groin rather than a hamstring injury.
He was replaced by Simon Lappin.
United continued to press for the opener and on 18 minutes Donaldson forced a fine low save out of Alan Mannus with a back post header from a Paul Paton free-kick.
A minute later a punt up the pitch had the Saints defence in trouble, with Henri Anier getting to the ball first and again making Mannus work.
The visitors’ early pressure was rewarded midway through the half with a deserved goal. Billy Mckay picked out Dow in far too much space from a Saints perspective. It was a scruffy connection from Dow but it was enough to find its way past the Perth keeper, who should have kept it out.
Saints improved in the second part of the first half and Steven MacLean had a penalty shout turned down when he claimed he was impeded by Gavin Gunning.
Then in stoppage time they nearly equalised. A Joe Shaughnessy header was blocked on the line by Paton, with Eiji Kawashima beaten.
Not a lot happened after the re-start but that all changed when Donaldson was sent off on the hour mark.
Shaughnessy sent a ball over the top and the former Livingston man allowed Kane to get goal-side of him. There was no denying that Donaldson dragged the striker down but United were aggrieved at Willie Collum’s decision to give a straight red as Kane was a long way from goal and Kyle Knoyle had a chance of catching up with him.
Unsurprisingly the pressure started to build and five minutes later Murray Davidson struck the bar with a left foot shot.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though. There was a goalmouth scramble in the Saints box, at the end of which Gavin Gunning fired the ball over.
Mannus charged forward for a stoppage time corner but there was to be no sting in the tail and United had their precious win.