Dylan Levitt’s deflected goal earned Dundee United a 1-0 victory over Motherwell which puts them in a commanding position for a European place.
The on-loan Manchester United midfielder struck his third goal in five matches in the 37th minute at Tannadice.
The win puts United four points and nine goals ahead of Motherwell in the race for the two Europa Conference League spots with three games left of the cinch Premiership season.
Motherwell’s European chances now realistically rely on them beating Ross County next Saturday, which would move them into fifth.
They can take some encouragement from their performance – they hit the frame of the goal twice in the first half and pushed until the end and will have Kevin van Veen back from suspension in Dingwall.
Both sides lined up with three at the back with United moving Charlie Mulgrew into midfield and Marc McNulty joining former Motherwell striker Tony Watt up front.
Kaiyne Woolery replaced Joe Efford for Motherwell while Mark O’Hara started at right wing-back.
Motherwell had the better of the early chances and Liam Kelly’s kick-out put Ross Tierney through after Liam Smith failed to head clear. Tierney checked his run and curled off the inside of the post.
Woolery hit the bar from 16 yards after referee Kevin Clancy played advantage when Callum Slattery was chopped down on the edge of the box.
Woolery almost got in behind and Tierney fired wide from 25 yards after riding a couple of tackles as Motherwell continued to look the more dangerous team.
But United scored after putting together their first string of passes in and around the box. Levitt collected the ball from McNulty and fired a shot which hit off Jake Carroll and looped over the diving Kelly.
It was the 16th time in 18 games in 2022 that Motherwell had conceded the opening goal.
Tierney had a chance to exploit Benjamin Siegrist’s position early in the second half when the goalkeeper raced out of his box to just beat Woolery to a through ball but the Irish forward shot into his opponent’s arms.
Motherwell had an escape when Juhani Ojala appeared to pull down McNulty as the United striker latched on to a long ball. Clancy played on.
Ojala had picked up a knock moments earlier and the Finland defender soon went off for Efford as Graham Alexander adopted a more attacking formation midway through the half.
Scott McMann and Efford had ambitious efforts saved at either end as the game remained in the balance.
McNulty went off injured after a collision with team-mate Smith while Alexander took off wide man Woolery and threw centre-back Bevis Mugabi up front.
Motherwell created some late headed chances. Ricki Lamie and O’Hara were off target and the best chance came when Carroll’s cross found Tierney unmarked eight yards out, but Siegrist dived to push the Irishman’s effort wide.
Kelly pulled off an excellent stop from Ross Graham’s deflected strike at the other end as United survived five minutes of added time to consolidate fourth place.
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country