St Mirren ended 2012 on a high after consigning Dundee United to defeat in a thrilling match at Tannadice.

Paul Dummett fired the visitors in front but Jon Daly's penalty and Stuart Armstrong's strike turned the match in United's favour before the break.

Steven Thompson levelled and Marc McAusland's shot put the Buddies ahead again before United's Brian McLean was sent off for violent conduct.

David van Zanten hit St Mirren's fourth only for Barry Douglas to net a reply.

The Paisley outfit move 12 points clear of bottom club Dundee and to within one point of eighth-place United, who remain without a home win since August.

Steven Thompson scores for St Mirren against Dundee United

Thompson scored against his former club to ignite St Mirren's second-half comeback

The hosts threatened with early headed efforts by Gavin Gunning and Daly but neither troubled St Mirren goalkeeper Craig Samson.

And Danny Lennon's side soon moved into the lead as Dummett forced home Gary Teale's driven ball across the box.

United pressed for an instant reply and Johnny Russell fired just wide.

But the home side were also coming under pressure with Thompson having a header cleared off the line by Keith Watson and then firing wide.

St Mirren looked to be on course for a half-time lead until United scored twice in a three-minute spell.

Dummett barged over Daly as both jumped to meet a cross and the striker was successful from 12 yards.

Samson was deceived by Armstrong's swerving long-range shot as give Peter Houston's men gained the lead.

However, carelessness in possession by the United defence afforded St Mirren the chance to equalise five minutes into the second half and Thompson finished well past Radoslaw Cierzniak.

And McAusland lashed high into the net after Teale's free-kick caused further problems for the United defence.

Michael Gardyne, who had replaced Willo Flood in the first half, had the chance to level for the home side almost straight away but lifted his shot over the bar and indeed over the stand.

Things went from bad to worse for Houston and his team when McLean was dismissed for a reckless challenge on John McGinn.

St Mirren's victory was all but sealed when van Zanten's low cross meandered into the net after being missed by the United defence and goalkeeper.

Douglas replied with an impressive free-kick in the final minute of regulation time but an injury-time rally could not yield an equaliser.