Substitute Alex Greive scored a late winner as St Mirren defeated Dundee United 2-1 in an entertaining encounter at the SMiSA Stadium.
St Mirren had taken a first-half lead when Curtis Main’s header ricocheted off the post before going in off the helpless United goalkeeper Carljohan Eriksson.
Dundee United substitute Steven Fletcher levelled shortly after the break, before referee Grant Irvine opted to chalk off Jonah Ayunga’s strike for a foul in the build-up as VAR made an impact on the weekend of its introduction in the Premiership.
However, the home side were not to be denied and Greive’s flicked header proved to be the difference as St Mirren moved back up to fourth in the table.
The St Mirren team sheet had shown just one change from last weekend’s home draw against Kilmarnock, as Scott Tanser came in for Declan Gallagher, while United boss Liam Fox opted to start with Ilmari Niskanen and Craig Sibbald as he made two changes to his side following their Premier Sports Cup defeat to Kilmarnock in midweek.
The match started in thrilling fashion and United almost took the lead in the fourth minute when St Mirren defender Richard Tait inadvertently poked towards his own goal but goalkeeper Trevor Carson reacted sharply to keep it out.
The hosts hit back, though, moments later, with Ayunga first seeing his shot deflected wide before Charles Dunne’s header came back off the crossbar from the resulting corner.
St Mirren had the ball in the net in the 17th minute as Ryan Strain slid home following a strong break from Mark O’Hara, but the whistle had long since gone for a foul on Ryan Edwards.
The home side were well on top and Ayunga went close twice in quick succession, before they were almost hit by a sucker punch in the 38th minute as a misjudgement by Carson presented Tony Watt with an open goal but the striker’s shot from range drifted agonisingly wide.
United were made to pay three minutes later, as Main rose highest to meet Tait’s cross at the back post to find the net via the post and the back of the unfortunate Eriksson.
Main – who had terrorised the United defence with two goals in their match in August – was inches away from a goal again moments later as he crashed a left-footed shot off the bar from 25 yards.
St Mirren had dominated the first half but it was the visitors who started the second period on the front foot and they did not have to wait long to get back on level terms, as Fletcher made his mark only moments after being introduced.
Fletcher found himself in space in the six-yard box after Watt had knocked down Aziz Behich’s deep cross and the former Scotland striker showed composure to control the ball and slide it past Carson with his right foot.
The drama continued just after the hour mark as Ayunga thought he had put the hosts back in front as he cut in from the right and unleashed a left-footed finish past Eriksson, only for referee Irvine to disallow the strike for a foul on Behich by Keanu Baccus after being sent to consult the pitchside monitor by VAR Alan Muir.
The home fans showed their frustration following the decision, but they were soon celebrating again before full-time as the hosts found the net again in the 83rd minute and this time the goal would stand.
Greive had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes as he found space to glance home Ethan Erhahon’s inch-perfect cross to put the hosts back in front.
United had certainly played their part in an end-to-end contest and Scott McMann almost equalised in the last minute but his inswinging effort glanced the post as the Saints held on.