As “must-win” games go, this one was right up there.
The Dundee United players knew before kick-off that if they failed to triumph against Kilmarnock, they were all but certain to be staring relegation fully in the face.
The squad, who held a clear-the-air-meeting earlier this week, responded to the challenge magnificently with a stunning performance full of fight and passion against a shell-shocked Killie side.
United have now closed the gap at the bottom of the table to 11 points and their confidence will have received a huge boost with another vital game to come next week at Partick Thistle.
The Tangerines absolutely dominated the first 45 from start to finish and opened the scoring in just the eighth minute with a well-worked goal.
Ryan Dow played a pass to Simon Murray who teed up Blair Spittal to drill a shot into the far corner of Jamie MacDonald’s net.
The home side were forced to make an early change when Coll Donaldson was stretchered off with what looked to be a facial injury and he was replaced by Mark Durnan.
The substitute made his mark in the 32nd minute when Spittal sent a corner in from the right with Durnan bulleting a header home at the near post to make it two.
The Tangerines then had to make a further change with Guy Demel hobbling off to be replaced by John Souttar.
United tails were up, though, and they made it three just seven minutes later when a whipped-in cross/shot from the right by Spittal was left by everyone including the bemused MacDonald with the ball flying into the back of the net.
The Tangerine faithful were in fine voice and they were celebrating once more in the 44th minute when that man Spittal again hit a cross from the right with the ball making its way through to John Rankin who volleyed home from six yards to send the fans into dreamland.
United would have been expecting a backlash in the second half from Killie but the visitors continued to toil with the tireless Murray coming close to making it five in the 56th minute but he could not keep his header down.
The Tangerines had a huge shout for a penalty in the 75th minute when Killie sub Tope Obadeyi handled in his own box but amazingly referee Euan Anderson was not convinced.
However, the fifth was only delayed for three minutes with Sean Dillon embarking on a truly remarkable solo run before stabbing the ball home with the United skipper then being swamped by his gleeful team-mates.
Kilmarnock snatched a late consolation goal in the 82nd minute when Josh Magennis headed past Eiji Kawashima, however, nothing could take the gloss off this priceless win for the Tangerines.
For full report, reaction and analysis, see Monday’s Courier.