Match ends, Dundee United 2, Heart of Midlothian 1.
An incredible 25-yard Paul Paton volley decided a tumultuous clash at Tannadice that saw both teams reduced to 10 men.
Guy Demel's header opened the scoring for United before Hearts' Jordan McGhee was shown a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Edward Ofere.
Jamie Walker's fine second-half strike looked to have salvaged Hearts a point before Paton's drive.
And there was still time for Henri Anier - on the pitch barely 20 minutes - to be shown two yellow cards.
United remain 11 points behind Kilmarnock at the foot of the Premiership table with a game in hand.
The hosts dominated the early proceedings with Neil Alexander forced into two wonderful saves - his clawing over the bar of Ofere's header after 29 minutes will surely be a candidate for save of the season.
A quick John Rankin free-kick then found Blair Spittal with space on the wing. His cross into the box was met by Demel but again Alexander saved the day.
Hearts had very little to offer in the first half other than a Sam Nicholson strike that whistled just wide of Eiji Kawashima's goal.
McGhee, already on a booking, went in high on Ofere, referee Kevin Clancy decided enough was enough with the defender trooping down the tunnel.
Rankin came within inches of the opener, ghosting in from the left, as his effort beat Alexander but came back of the inside of the post before being cleared for a corner.
However the Hearts defence were caught napping as Rankin's near post corner was thundered past Alexander by Demel to give United a deserved lead.
The Jambos came back strong in the second period and equalised three minutes after the restart, Walker beautifully controlling a lofted through-ball and blasting beyond Kawashima.
Ryan Dow came close to giving United the lead once again when he lobbed the ball over the onrushing Alexander but the ball bounced over the crossbar.
The game continued to flow from end to end and Dauda should have set-up Nicholson for what may have proved the winning goal - the youngster was unmarked with the goal gaping, but the striker elected to shoot and fired straight at Kawashima.
With Mixu Paatelainen's side desperate for all the points they can muster in their fight for Premiership survival they continued to push more and more men forward.
And with the clock ticking towards 90 minutes Paton cracked home a wonderful volley to secure the win.
The dram was not over as Anier also saw red but the hosts held on for what could be a crucial three points.
- 17DurnanBooked at 66mins
- 6PatonBooked at 89mins
- 55DemelSubstituted forDixonat 54'minutes
- 8RankinBooked at 41mins
- 22FraserBooked at 80mins
- 9OfereSubstituted forAnierat 73'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 54Sinama-PongolleSubstituted forDowat 60'minutes
- 22McGheeBooked at 40mins
- 5OzturkBooked at 86mins
- 17OshaniwaSubstituted forRossiat 45'minutes
- 8BuabenSubstituted forSutchuin-Djoumat 76'minutes
- 44ZanattaSubstituted forSouttarat 43'minutes
- 14Pallardo Gonzalez
- Kevin Clancy
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Dundee United 2, Heart of Midlothian 1.
Scott Fraser (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Arnaud Djoum (Heart of Midlothian).
Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Ryan Dow.
Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Paul Dixon.
Foul by Ryan Dow (Dundee United).
Arnaud Djoum (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Second yellow card to Henri Anier (Dundee United) for a bad foul.
Foul by Henri Anier (Dundee United).
Alim Ozturk (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Paul Paton (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.
Goal! Dundee United 2, Heart of Midlothian 1. Paul Paton (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box to the high centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Abiola Dauda (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Foul by Paul Paton (Dundee United).
Sam Nicholson (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Alim Ozturk (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Henri Anier (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alim Ozturk (Heart of Midlothian).
Henri Anier (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.