Ross County defeated Highland neighbours Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2-1 in a fiery affair with their success opening up a three-point lead at the top.
The Staggies took the lead on 16 minutes when Stelios Demetriou teed up Ross Draper at the edge of the penalty box and when Mark Ridgers could only push out Draper’s curling shot former Caley striker Billy Mckay was on hand to net.
The lead was only held for a quarter of an hour, Jordan White volleying in a Tom Walsh corner to grab the 100th goal of his career.
Inverness had looked the more likely side to snatch a winner in the second half, but County secured the points when Ross Stewart met a Draper cross and looped a header back across goal and past Ridgers.
The game ended with a flashpoint when home striker Brian Graham needlessly jumped into Coll Donaldson and sparked a melee following which Graham and the visiting Shaun Rooney were dismissed.
Home co-manager Stevie Ferguson was delighted despite a less than sparkling performance. He said: “Sometimes you need to win ugly and that is what we did. We did not play well, Inverness made it very difficult, but we got the three points.”
Caley manager John Robertson, who was sent to the stand during the second half said: “Football can be cruel and that was cruel. My players were on the floor afterwards as the defeat was hard to take but there is real determination to bounce back.”
Dundee United manager Robbie Neilson cannot wait to use some of the investment promised by the club’s new American owner Mark Ogren as 2018 ended on a low with a 2-1 defeat at Alloa.
It was the Wasps’ first league win over United since 1959, achieved after Callum Booth had fired the visitors in front directly from a free-kick with an hour gone.
Andy Graham headed in an equaliser 13 minutes later and Dario Zanatta slotted in a last-minute winner to leave Neilson saying: “It was not good enough. There has to be changes and thankfully we are now at the January window. We have to get players in who will take this club forward. The owners have big plans and I am looking forward to them being implemented.
Alloa boss Jim Goodwin said: “Beating Dundee United is a great end to a terrific 2018. We were promoted and now hold our own when everyone thought we’d be rock bottom.”
Ayr United drew for the third game running with a 1-1 tie at Queen of the South, where Josh Todd lashed in an Andy Stirling cutback to open the scoring on 29 minutes.
The Honest Men equalised before the break when Michael Moffat nodded in after the home defence had failed to clear a corner.
Ayr boss Ian McCall said: “I thought we were terrific and should have gone on to win.”
The January transfer window cannot come quickly enough for Falkirk and Partick Thistle as Dunfermline defeated bottom-of-the-table Bairns 4-2 and the Jags remained second bottom after losing 2-1 to visitors Morton.
The Pars sent out a reminder about their promotion intentions despite falling behind to a Joe McKee goal after two minutes. Goals by Myles Hippolyte and Tom Beadling had Allan Johnston’s side winning within 15 minutes. In the second half, Beadling and James Vincent had Dunfermline ahead by three before Zak Rudden grabbed a second for the hosts.
Johnston said: “We showed a lot of character to come back from losing the early goal. It is the type of display that builds confidence.”
Falkirk manager Ray McKinnon said: “Our defending was embarrassing so thank goodness I can get bodies in. Some of the players in this game will not play here again.”
Morton’s Scott Tiffoney chipped in the opening goal after nine minutes, the hosts drawing level with an hour played thanks to a long-distance blast by Craig Slater. Charlie Telfer ran clear to score the winner with ten minutes left.
Thistle manager Gary Caldwell said: “There will be changes over the next month.”