Thomas Mikkelsen, the Danish striker, fired Dundee United to within a point of second-top Falkirk with a vital winner to sink Dunfermline at Tannadice last night.
Mikkelsen struck bang on the half-hour when he turned home Murray’s cross to ensure Ray McKinnon’s men leapfrogged rivals Morton into third place.
Dunfermline didn’t do enough to threaten Cammy Bell’s goal even late on and United substitute Nick van der Velden should have netted in injury time only for Pars keeper Sean Murdoch to save at his feet.
Despite a brisk start it took until midway through the first half for the first real chance to arrive. On-loan Norwich City attacker Tony Andreu sent Simon Murray through and from eight yards the United striker poked a shot just past Sean Murdoch’s near post.
But on the half-hour the hosts were not to be denied. Stewart Murdoch’s pass forward set up Murray who side-footed a cross in for Mikkelsen and he calmly prodded the ball into the net from close-range.
It was the on-loan Odense hitman’s sixth goal since joining the Tayside club in January and allowed the hosts to breathe a little easier in the run-up to half-time.
They soon went in search of another and minutes later Andreu released Mikkelsen, but his left-foot cross was just too long for the on-rushing Blair Spittal, who had ghosted to the far post in the hope of making a connection.
It was all United who then had another half-chance to increase their lead two minutes before the interval.
This time Willo Flood tried to pick out Mikkelsen who could do little as the ball ricocheted off him into the path of Murray, and he quickly got a left-foot shot away which went straight into the arms of Murdoch.
Within seconds of the restart, United went on the offensive again as they looked to kill the contest.Spittal went through on goal but Pars keeper Murdoch had anticipated the danger and raced off his line to thwart the hosts.
At the other end, the Pars had a rare breakaway which saw Higginbotham break free down the right and he crossed for Michael Moffat who was just inches away from applying the finishing touch.
Andreu then let fly from 22 yards only to see his spectacular effort strike the post with Murdoch well beaten.
The pattern remained the same although the Fifers almost levelled when Callum Morris rose to meet Higginbotham’s corner but his header was held by Cammy Bell.