Ross County’s six-game winning streak came to an end as Dundee United kept their faint promotion hopes alive with a 1-0 win at Tannadice.
Calum Butcher’s first-half goal was enough to separate the two sides, reducing the gap at the top to eight points with a further eight to go.
Neither side looked assured or comfortable in a feisty contest, with Michael Gardyne seeing a shot blocked on the line in the second half and Arabs goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist having a few nervy moments between the posts.
The two sides still have to meet again in the league in Dingwall on April 5.
County made three changes from the 2-1 win over Falkirk a week ago, with Andy Boyle, Ross Stewart and Ross Draper coming in for Tom Grivosti, Brian Graham and Don Cowie.
It took 42 seconds for United to have their first shot on target, with Mark Reynolds’ long ball over the top playing in Paul McMullan but cutting on to his right foot, he shot straight at Scott Fox.
Butcher put United in front seven minutes into the game as he met Peter Pawlett’s corner and directed his header inside the far post.
County controlled much of the territory following the goal but struggled to force a save out of Benjamin Siegrist, with Jamie Lindsay’s snap-shot on 37 minutes the closest they came to a goal in the opening period.
They were susceptible to the counter with the pace and movement of Nicky Clark and McMullan, with the former teeing up the lone striker to run clear, as Keith Watson scampered back in time to intervene.
Less than 30 seconds into the second half County forced Siegrist into his first meaningful save, after a purposeful run from Gardyne pulled the ball back to Stewart, who forced the United keeper into save with his legs.
The visitors had brought on Brian Graham at the break but were offering little in the way of an attacking threat.
It took Siegrist to nearly gift them a goal on 71 minutes when he spilled Jamie Lindsay’s drive out into the six-yard box and when Gardyne lashed it goalwards, Mark Reynolds back-pedalled to block on the line.
Ross County’s Marcus Fraser (L) challenges Dundee United’s Jamie Robson.Clark ought to have put the game to bed with nine minutes to go when he was played through by McMullan but faced by Fox, he too shot straight at the goalkeeper’s legs.
Siegrist fumbled another cross that Graham was unable to turn in, as United held on for three valuable points.