Dundee United swept to a victory over 10-man Dunfermline Athletic that eases pressure on manager Peter Houston.

The Pars had Gary Mason sent off for a dangerous challenge after 26 minutes.

But, by then, Paul Dixon had hit the net with a classy volley and set up Lauri Dalla Valle for a simple finish that looked like killing off the game.

Andy Kirk fired a reply after 55 minutes, but Johnny Russell volleyed home 20 minutes later and set up Gary Mackay-Steven seven minutes later.

That ended a run of seven league meetings between the sides without a United victory, Dunfermline's only consolation being Motherwell's comeback against Inverness that leaves Caley Thistle still adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premier League.

Lauri Dalla Valle celebrates

Dalla Valle grabbed United's second goal at East End Park

Houston had gone into the game under a cloud, with showdown talks with chairman Stephen Thompson planned for Sunday in light of speculation over the manager's role sweeping the city.

Houston was forced to switch striker Jon Daly to the heart of defence in the absence of Garry Kenneth, with Russell and Ryan Dow coming into the side in place of the injured centre-half and Barry Douglas.

But the visitors were quickly in control at East End Park thanks to two goals within the opening 20 minutes.

Dow had already fired wide and Paul Gallacher sprawled full length to superbly turn wide a powerful Gavin Gunning free-kick wide before United made the breakthrough after 13 minutes.

Dixon showed great control to half-volley past the goalkeeper after a Willo Flood free-kick was only partially cleared and was at the heart of the second goal five minutes later.

The defender had a go from 25-yards, the ball deflected off defender John Potter and Dalla Valle finished clinically after being left one-on-one with Gallacher.

Dunfermline had been denied the wing trickery of Joe Cardle in their starting line-up, with Craig Easton starting in his place, and manager Jim McIntyre's midfield was further hampered by the exit of Mason.

The experienced campaigner's frustration showed as he went in with studs showing against Russell and referee Stevie O'Reilly was perhaps a little harsh in showing a straight red card as the United striker rolled around injured.

Scott Robertson just failed to get a touch in front of goal as the Pars were relieved to be only two behind at the break.

However, against the odds, Dunfermline dragged themselves back into the game 10 minutes into the second half.

Paddy Boyle won the ball before sending a cross-come-shot into the box, where Kirk fired past goalkeeper Dusan Pernis.

Ten-man Pars were suddenly a team inspired, but after a period of home pressure Russell pounced to volley into the roof of the net following a free-kick fired into the penalty box.

The United forward was suddenly a man inspired and sent another drive against the crossbar, although he ought to have done better than miss with the rebound.

Dunfermine's sense of injustice continued when Daly was only shown a yellow card after a deliberate hand ball and Russell immediately raced clear on the break before setting up substitute Mackay-Steven to roll in the fourth.

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