Dundee United hit four past a leaky Ross County defence in a thrilling Dingwall contest to record their first away win of the Premiership season.

Gary Mackay-Steven opened from the spot before Stuart Armstrong headed another.

Sean Dillon's last-man foul on County's Kevin Luckassen went unpunished and Ryan Gauld added a neat third.

United's fourth was notched by Nadir Ciftci but County made a late fightback through Ivan Sproule's deflected cross and Rocco Quinn's header.

The hosts failed to find another two goals, though, meaning they lost at home for only the fifth time in 22 league games since entering Scotland's top flight.

Dundee United's second four-goal haul of the season meant the dropping of striker David Goodwillie to the bench became a non-issue.

Preferred to lead the line instead of the Scotland international was Ciftci; the Turkish forward's bigger build and ability to get a hold of the ball through the middle were the reasons given by Jackie McNamara for that decision.

The United manager's call was well and truly justified. From the moment Ciftci packed tremendous power behind a third minute free-kick, which was well tipped over by County goalkeeper Mark Brown, it was apparent the former NAC Breda forward would have a big part to play.

His goal, United's fourth after he collected Gauld's pass to neatly take it round Brown, was the least he deserved after contributing to two of his team-mates' strikes.

Ross County defended poorly throughout and the flurry of lethal Tangerine finishing began from the penalty spot.

Mackay-Steven, perhaps motivated by seeing Watford winger Ikechi Anya make such a positive impact for Scotland during the international break, looked in the mood. Chasing down a long ball, the 23-year-old nipped in between Ben Gordon and Brown, who bundled Mackay-Steven over for a penalty.

And the former County youth player stepped up to side-foot his second goal of the season into the left corner.

One goal became two within three minutes. Ciftci linking well with Gauld before crossing for midfielder Armstrong to loop an intelligent header over Brown and in at the far post.

The game's turning point came when the hosts had their own penalty claim turned down by referee Brian Colvin.

Movie night

"What Derek Adams will need to do this week is sit his players down and show them the DVD of this game and say 'why were we stepping up there?' and 'why were we not picking runners up?'"

BBC Radio Scotland summariser Peter Houston

Luckassen dispossessed a casual Dillion and was subsequently pulled down by the Irishman. It seemed a certain penalty and could have merited a red card for Dillon, but Colvin did not award it and County were furious.

United's lead was nearly reduced when Graham Carey's outswinging free-kick which Radoslaw Cierzniak touched brilliantly onto the post.

The hosts would later be frustrated by the woodwork again when Stuart Kettlewell headed a Carey cross off the upright.

It was the energetic Gauld who gave the visitors their three-goal lead; timing his run perfectly to latch onto Scotland Under-21 captain Armstrong's pass and shoot low across Brown.

Normal business resumed following the interval with Ciftci's fourth after he had earlier spurned a better chance to score.

However, Ross County began to neutralise the gaps in their back-line by finding some in Dundee United's defence.

Sproule's dipping effort from the right corner of the penalty area went in with the help of a deflection and seemed no more than a consolation for Derek Adams' side.

But United were shaken further when another whipped Carey delivery was met confidently and firmly by the diving Quinn.

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