Ray McKinnon, the Dundee United manager, saw his side secure victory through the most unlikely source as Mark Durnan’s late winner added further fuel to their push for promotion.
Durnan was the hero for the Tayside club with an 82nd minute finish which finally saw off Falkirk at Tannadice to ensure they remain on the tail of league leaders Hibs in their quest to negotiate a path back to the Premiership.
The 23-year-old defender made his return from suspension in some style with a textbook finish having run almost the length of the park as United stretched their own unbeaten run to six games.
It was a rare strike from Durnan, but manager McKinnon could sense he was fired up to do something special having watched him at close-hand in training leading up to this Championship encounter.
“What was Mark doing?” quipped McKinnon afterwards. “Seriously, he’s intercepted it and then he pops up in the box with a great finish. It’s funny because I [had] seen Mark in training this week and he had a real desire about him.
“I just knew he was ready to come back in. It’s a great win. It was thoroughly deserved because we dominated the game apart from ten minutes before half-time.
“We showed a lot of patience and would have been sick to come off that park without getting the three points.”
This was former United manager Peter Houston’s first time back at Tannadice since leading them to Scottish Cup glory over Ross County at Hampden in 2010.
Among the visitors’ line-up were four ex-United men in the shape of David McCracken, John Rankin, Mark Kerr and Lee Miller.
They knew victory would send them above their title rivals but the hosts had the first shot of the afternoon in 11 minutes when Paul Dixon tried his luck from distance but didn’t seriously trouble Danny Rogers in the visitors goal.
Then, at the other end, Rankin picked up possession 25-yards from goal and his effort fizzed just past Cammy Bell’s far post.
It was beginning to open up and soon after United’s Dutch star Nick Van Der Velden produced a neat flick into the path of Tony Andreu, and Rogers had to look sharp to parry his effort away to safety.
Falkirk were attacking at every opportunity, and as the half-hour mark approached, Craig Sibbald latched on to a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, but shot straight at Bell.
United responded soon after as Charlie Telfer’s defence-splitting pass allowed Andreu to run through on goal, only for Rogers to race off his line and quell the danger.
The home team threatened first after the break when Scott Fraser unleashed a 22-yard drive which almost clipped Rogers’ crossbar.
On 60 minutes, though, Falkirk ought to have taken the lead.
Van der Velden tried to head Aaron Muirhead’s free-kick back to Bell but was way short. Luke Leahy nipped in and tried to lob the keeper but couldn’t get enough height on his effort and Bell gathered easily.
But United struck the winner with eight minutes left. Durnan started the move as he surged forward into the Falkirk half before Fraser’s cross led to substitute Cammy Smith’s shot being blocked.
Having remained upfield, Durnan was quick to react and he wasted no time in curling a 12-yard shot outwith Rogers and into the net.
Houston, by his own admission, was deflated by the eventual outcome. It’s a disappointing day,” conceded the Falkirk manager afterwards. You don’t always get what you deserve in football.
“It was a close game and quite entertaining for what was 0-0 for so long. But they score from us giving the ball away outside their box cheaply.”