Nicky Clark scored twice as Dundee United came from behind and survived the loss of a late penalty to beat Premiership bottom side Hamilton.
Ross Callachan headed Scott McMann’s cross home to put Accies in front with 25 minutes left.
But Clark finished well twice inside four minutes to turn the match in United’s favour.
The visitors then won a spot-kick but Callachan whacked it well over to leave them four points adrift.
United remain fifth and are now five points off Hibernian while Hamilton have lost five league games on the bounce.
Adrian Sporle could not connect with Marc McNulty’s low cross in United’s first serious advance and Clark had two free-kick efforts before the break.
The first was wide and though his next effort was on target and blocked, a McNulty infringement in the wall brought play to a halt.
McNulty’s chip almost unlocked Accies after the break but goalkeeper Ryan Fulton did well to reach the ball before Clark.
Lawrence Shankland and Luke Bolton replaced Paul McMullan and Sporle for the final 37 minutes, giving Hamilton additional headaches.
But they broke forward 12 minutes later through McMann and his cross found Callachan on his own to nod past Benjamin Siegrist.
The hosts had to show resolve and McNulty squared for Clark to slot in their equaliser.
And, after a headed clearance by the visitors, McNulty nodded into Clark’s path and his half-volleyed finish showed both confidence and class as Fulton was left helpless.
There was still one more twist in the tale as Jamie Robson was penalised for handball and Callachan sized up a chance to double his tally for the day. He got it all wrong, though, and Siegrist did not even have to make a save as the ball sailed over.
Man of the match – Nicky Clark
What did we learn?
After 29 goals for club and country last season, Shankland was regarded as Dundee United’s main goal threat going into this campaign.
But it is Clark who is nearing double figures with his brace taking him on to nine, while McNulty’s two assists showed he can be an able foil for a strike partner.
Having lost 26 goals in seven games in all competitions going into this one and without a clean sheet since August, Hamilton desperately needed a momentum shift.
Part of that mission was about restricting Dundee United and the other was finding the net. They had done both with 16 minutes left but their collapse and missed penalty demonstrates their lack of confidence and they need points quickly to avoid being cut too far adrift.
What did they say?
Dundee United manager Micky Mellon: “To gain points in the Scottish Premiership is always very hard. What I was most pleased about was the composure that the players showed to get themselves back into the game and score two terrific goals.
“For Nicky Clark to show that calmness and go and slot that twice with those two finishes is great credit to him and tells you what a top player he is. It fell to the right man at the right time and we got a really valuable three points. Now we’re looking up. We will not get carried away. We know how difficult it is to get results in this division, it’s tough.”
Hamilton Academical head coach Brian Rice: “It was a vast, vast improvement on the last few games. Really, really disappointed. We definitely didn’t deserve that.
“I can’t criticise my team one little bit. They gave me everything. It shouldn’t have taken a penalty kick to get something out the game because the boys were excellent.”
Hamilton host Aberdeen on Wednesday and both sides have a free weekend after that, having missed out on the last 16 of the Scottish League Cup. On 5 December, Hamilton are at home to Kilmarnock and United visit Livingston.
- 6ReynoldsSubstituted forRobsonat 67′minutes
- 3SpörleSubstituted forBoltonat 53′minutes
- 66FuchsBooked at 59minsSubstituted forHarkesat 60′minutes
- 7McMullanSubstituted forShanklandat 53′minutes
- 18ButcherBooked at 45mins
- 10ClarkBooked at 86mins
- 16MartinBooked at 25mins
- 5EastonBooked at 90minsSubstituted forMoyoat 90+1′minutes
- 2OdoffinBooked at 27mins
Match ends, Dundee United 2, Hamilton Academical 1.
Second Half ends, Dundee United 2, Hamilton Academical 1.
Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Lee Hodson.
Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Ben Stirling.
Attempt saved. Marc McNulty (Dundee United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Lawrence Shankland.
Substitution, Hamilton Academical. David Moyo replaces Brian Easton.
Brian Easton (Hamilton Academical) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Marc McNulty (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Brian Easton (Hamilton Academical).
Attempt missed. Ross Callachan (Hamilton Academical) right footed shot from more than 35 yards is high and wide to the right from a direct free kick.
Nicky Clark (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Nicky Clark (Dundee United).
Ross Callachan (Hamilton Academical) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Ryan Edwards (Dundee United) header from the right side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Nicky Clark with a cross following a set piece situation.
Lawrence Shankland (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Scott Martin (Hamilton Academical).
Penalty missed! Bad penalty by Ross Callachan (Hamilton Academical) right footed shot is high and wide to the left. Ross Callachan should be disappointed.
Penalty conceded by Jamie Robson (Dundee United) with a hand ball in the penalty area.
Goal! Dundee United 2, Hamilton Academical 1. Nicky Clark (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Marc McNulty with a headed pass.
Foul by Marc McNulty (Dundee United).