Robbie Neilson credited his Dundee United players for showing their mettle as they revived their title aspirations with a home win over Dunfermline.
Neilson watched his title hopefuls return to winning ways courtesy of first-half goals from striker Lawrence Shankland and a fit-again Nicky Clark which sunk Stevie Crawford’s below-par visitors at Tannadice.
The Tangerines went some way to answering their critics by maintaining their 100 per cent home league record in the wake of back-to-back away defeats at the hands of Alloa and last weekend’s 4-0 hammering by Queen of the South.
Neilson, whose side moved three points above second-top Ayr United and will host Partick Thistle on Tuesday, said: “I was pleased with the way the players responded. We’ve had a difficult couple of weeks for sure.
“We had lost two games on the bounce and there’s a bit of negativity which comes with that.
“The lads though showed good strength of character, especially to control things as we did in the first-half.”
United went into this fixture with the incentive of knowing they could further stretch their lead at the top of the table following Ayr’s defeat at home to Dundee on Friday night.
They had been forced to endure some stick for the manner of their recent defeats but they were clearly out to make amends and that was reflected in their ninth-minute breakthrough.
Former Pars striker Clark sent a cross into the box which Paul McMullan had a swing at and missed completely. However, Shankland made no mistake as he hooked his shot past helpless Cameron Gill for his 15th Championship goal so far this season.
Then, in 27 minutes, United increased their lead.
Ian Harkes was fouled, and Clark wasted no time in letting fly from 22 yards to leave Pars keeper Gill helpless as the ball fizzed high into the net.
That knocked the spirit out of the visitors although Paul Paton did see his goal-bound 34th-minute drive blocked by Troy Brown.
Dunfermline knew they had to strike early after the break to give themselves a chance of mounting a comeback and as the hour mark approached, Ryan Dow powered clean through on goal.
The former United attacker tried to loft the ball over Benjamin Siegrist, but the Swiss keeper did just enough to deflect the ball wide for a corner.
The Pars kept going and, in 73 minutes, Andy Ryan’s spectacular left-foot shot from 22-yards came crashing back off the bar with Siegrist helpless.