Match ends, Dundee United 2, Inverness CT 1.
Scottish Premiership: Dundee United 2-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Dundee United survived a late Caley Thistle fight-back to keep themselves in the hunt for a Europa League place.
Ryan Gauld put the Tannadice side ahead when he finished off a sweeping move after Gavin Gunning had earlier hacked a Marley Watkins chip off the line.
Ryan Dow was handed an easy second when Dean Brill blasted a short pass-back off the striker.
Liam Polworth fired into the top corner for Inverness and Billy McKay almost levelled late on with a late header.
Jackie McNamara's side can now narrow the gap on second place to two points when they travel to New Firm rivals Aberdeen on Saturday.
Inverness now look like they will be cut adrift from the leading pack, with a nine-point gap between themselves and third place leaving them a mountain to climb.
A simmering rivalry has emerged between the two sides this season and that was evident in the opening 15 minutes with the pace of the game similar to a local derby.
As a consequence, good football was at a premium, but both sides threatened early - Billy McKay and Ryan Gauld testing each goalkeeper.
Brill almost gifted the home side the opening goal when he was happy to let the ball run out for a goal kick, but Stuart Armstrong nicked the ball off him on the line.
The midfielder put the ball back into the danger area, but Dow couldn't get his shot away quick enough and the goalkeeper recovered.
United were starting to dominate, but it was Caley Thistle who went closest to scoring in the first-half.
Greg Tansey played through Watkins, who chipped the ball over Radoslaw Cierzniak, but Gunning managed to race back and clear it off the line.
Nadir Cifti and Armstrong both hit efforts over the bar as United finished the half strongest, with the Turkish striker also whistling a shot just past the near post.
McKay had the chance to open the scoring within minutes of the restart after he managed to nip in behind Gunning, but he curled his shot wide, and that miss would prove pivotal a minute later.
A sweeping move by United opened the visitors up and Andrew Robertson cut the ball back for Gauld. His first shot was blocked by Graeme Shinnie, but the rebound fell kindly to him and he made no mistake second time around.
Ciftci went close twice in quick succession, sending a free-kick over the bar followed by a drilled shot through the middle straight at Brill, but neither side were looking particularly threatening until the visitors shot themselves in the foot - handing the second goal to their hosts on a plate.
Brill's short clearance went straight to Josh Meekings, who attempted to pass it back to his goalkeeper, but he hit it too short. Brill made it to the ball but blasted it off Dow, who was left with the easy job of strolling through and tapping the ball into the net.
However, teenager Polworth hauled the Highlanders back into the game with a wonder strike.
James Vincent played the ball off for the 19-year-old outside the area and he unleashed a rocket straight into the top corner.
That gave the visitors hope and they were a whisker away from rescuing a point when McKay's diving header at the back post was just wide.
- 8RankinBooked at 79mins
- 21CiftciSubstituted forGrahamat 77'minutes
- 19GauldSubstituted forMackay-Stevenat 70'minutes
- 10ArmstrongSubstituted forGomisat 89'minutes
- 29El Alagui
- 2RavenBooked at 64mins
- 9ForanSubstituted forPolworthat 64'minutes
- 5WarrenBooked at 32mins
- 8DraperSubstituted forRossat 87'minutes
- 15WatkinsSubstituted forChristieat 79'minutesBooked at 90mins
- Euan Norris
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Dundee United 2, Inverness CT 1.
Foul by Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United).
Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Mark Wilson (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Ryan Christie (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Ryan Christie (Inverness CT).
Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by David Raven (Inverness CT).
Substitution, Dundee United. Morgaro Gomis replaces Stuart Armstrong.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Nick Ross replaces Ross Draper.
Goal! Dundee United 2, Inverness CT 1. Liam Polworth (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Ross Draper.
Attempt missed. Graeme Shinnie (Inverness CT) left footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Ryan Christie replaces Marley Watkins.
John Rankin (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by John Rankin (Dundee United).
Ross Draper (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Dundee United. Brian Graham replaces Nadir Ciftci.
Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Gary Warren.
Goal! Dundee United 2, Inverness CT 0. Ryan Dow (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.