A mistake by Dundee United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak helped hand St Johnstone the points at Tannadice.

Gary Mackay-Steven and Nadir Ciftci both passed up early chances before Stevie May's innocuous 30-yard shot squirmed through the Pole's fingers.

Both Jackie McNamara and Tommy Wright were sent to the stand as tempers frayed in the dugout after Farid El Alagui went down in the box.

Mackay-Steven also had a second penalty claim waved away in stoppage-time.

The result means St Johnstone now pull four points clear of Hibernian in the race for a place in the Scottish Premiership's top-six.

It was Wright's side who dominated the early exchanges much to the surprise of the hosts, threatening four times in the opening 10 minutes.

Gary McDonald headed David Wotherspoon's near-post corner wide then Cierzniak had to push May's shot wide after a long ball had caught out Gunning.

Keith Watson scrambled clear Michael O'Halloran's cutback in the six-yard box before May again had an opportunity when he volleyed over from 14 yards.

As the half wore on, United improved and had two great opportunities to net the opener.

Mackay-Steven rounded Alan Mannus but took a touch too many, giving Dave Mackay the chance to get back and block the shot.

Three minutes later, Nadir Ciftci passed up an even better chance, shooting weakly when given a free shot at goal.

Dundee United boss Jackie McNamara was sent to the stand alongside St Johnstone counter-part Tommy Wright

Dundee United boss Jackie McNamara was sent to the stand alongside St Johnstone counter-part Tommy Wright

It was a soft goal from May that broke the deadlock just after the restart. Cierzniak looked like he had the St Johnstone striker's effort covered but took his eye off the ball and saw it slip out of his grasp and over the line.

That livened the game up. Mannus saved Ciftci's header and pushed away Ryan Dow's strike before May's looping header landed on the roof of the net.

United threw on El Alagui and Ryan Gauld for the last 20 minutes and both were involved in controversial moments that led to the dismissal of both managers.

The home side felt they should have had a penalty when El Alagui hit the deck after a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge from O'Halloran. Referee Crawford Allan took a good look then decided against pointing to the spot.

When that was followed by Gauld's jinking run being halted abruptly with no free-kick awarded, the United bench reacted furiously, sparking a touchline row between the opposition managers.

Mannus made a point-blank save from El Alagui following Andy Robertson's low cross before Saints survived another penalty claim when Wotherspoon challenged Mackay-Steven in stoppage time.

The defeat means the Tannadice men drop to fifth in the table as they battle for a European spot and brings to an end a run of five consecutive victories.

Lineup, Bookings (6) & Substitutions (6)

Dundee United

  • 01 Cierzniak
  • 12 Watson
  • 26 Robertson Booked
  • 08 Rankin
  • 02 Dillon (Graham - 85' )
  • 05 Gunning
  • 10 Armstrong (El Alagui - 66' )
  • 06 Paton
  • 21 Ciftci Booked
  • 18 Dow (Gauld - 66' )
  • 11 Mackay-Steven

Substitutes

  • 09 Graham
  • 16 Wilson
  • 19 Gauld
  • 20 Souttar
  • 25 McCallum
  • 27 Gomis
  • 29 El Alagui

St Johnstone

  • 01 Mannus
  • 19 Miller (Cregg - 91' )
  • 24 Easton (Clancy - 21' )
  • 08 McDonald
  • 02 Mackay Booked
  • 06 Anderson
  • 29 O'Halloran (Croft - 83' )
  • 12 Dunne Booked
  • 17 May Booked
  • 07 Millar Booked
  • 10 Wotherspoon

Substitutes

  • 04 Cregg
  • 11 Hasselbaink
  • 15 Banks
  • 20 Brown
  • 22 Croft
  • 23 Clancy
  • 25 Iwelumo
Ref: Crawford Allan
Att: 6,720

Match Stats

Shots

8 10

On target

4 3

Corners

5 5

Fouls

17 17

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Dundee United 0, St Johnstone 1.

90:00 +4:42 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Dundee United 0, St Johnstone 1.

90:00 +4:19

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Steven Anderson.

90:00 +3:37 Booking

Booking Steve May (St Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

90:00 +3:33

Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

90:00 +3:33

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

90:00 +1:37

Brian Graham (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

90:00 +1:37

Foul by Steven Anderson (St Johnstone).

90:00 +0:17 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, St Johnstone. Patrick Cregg replaces Gary Miller because of an injury.

89:00

Foul by Andrew Robertson (Dundee United).

89:00

Lee Croft (St Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

88:26

Attempt missed. Steve May (St Johnstone) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

87:20

Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

87:20

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

84:19 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Brian Graham replaces Sean Dillon.

83:26

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.

82:39

Attempt saved. Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

82:13 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, St Johnstone. Lee Croft replaces Michael O'Halloran.

81:27

Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

81:27

Foul by Gary Miller (St Johnstone).

79:35 Booking

Booking James Dunne (St Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

79:28

Foul by James Dunne (St Johnstone).

79:28

Ryan Gauld (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

76:29 Booking

Booking Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.

76:11 Booking

Booking Chris Millar (St Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

75:39

Attempt missed. Ryan Gauld (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

73:37 Booking

Booking Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.

73:30

(St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

73:30

for dissent Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

72:24

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Paul Paton.

71:22

Attempt saved. Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

70:46

Attempt missed. James Dunne (St Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right.

69:53

Michael O'Halloran (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

69:53

Foul by John Rankin (Dundee United).

69:14

Michael O'Halloran (St Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

69:14

Foul by Ryan Gauld (Dundee United).

67:44 Booking

Booking David Mackay (St Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

67:39

Foul by David Mackay (St Johnstone).

67:39

Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

66:17

Attempt missed. Michael O'Halloran (St Johnstone) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

65:30 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Ryan Gauld replaces Ryan Dow.

65:18 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Farid El Alagui replaces Stuart Armstrong.

63:56

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by David Wotherspoon.

60:30

Attempt saved. David Wotherspoon (St Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

60:06

James Dunne (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

60:06

Foul by Ryan Dow (Dundee United).

59:37

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

59:37

Foul by Sean Dillon (Dundee United).

58:54

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Keith Watson.

58:16

David Mackay (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

58:16

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

55:10

Attempt missed. Gary Miller (St Johnstone) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

54:29

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Keith Watson.

51:29

Paul Paton (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

51:29

Foul by Gary McDonald (St Johnstone).

50:51

Foul by Sean Dillon (Dundee United).

50:51

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

49:52

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by James Dunne.

49:09

Attempt saved. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

47:34 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 0, St Johnstone 1. Steve May (St Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box to the centre of the goal.

45:00

Second Half begins Dundee United 0, St Johnstone 0.

45:00 +0:51 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Dundee United 0, St Johnstone 0.

40:35

Tim Clancy (St Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

40:29

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

36:40

Hand ball by James Dunne (St Johnstone).

36:04

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

36:04

Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

33:52

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

33:52

Foul by Paul Paton (Dundee United).

32:50

Foul by Ryan Dow (Dundee United).

32:50

James Dunne (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

31:30

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.

29:19

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Tim Clancy.

27:19

Ryan Dow (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

27:19

Foul by Chris Millar (St Johnstone).

26:39

Attempt saved. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

25:35

Sean Dillon (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

25:35

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

24:26

Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

24:26

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

23:17

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Tim Clancy.

22:38

Attempt blocked. Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.

21:06

Gary Miller (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

21:06

Foul by Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United).

20:47 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, St Johnstone. Tim Clancy replaces Brian Easton because of an injury.

18:46

Hand ball by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

17:39

Paul Paton (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

17:39

Foul by Gary McDonald (St Johnstone).

16:45

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

16:45

Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

15:30

Foul by Gary McDonald (St Johnstone).

15:30

Paul Paton (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

14:31

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

14:31

Foul by Sean Dillon (Dundee United).

11:38

Chris Millar (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

11:38

Foul by Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United).

10:58

Attempt missed. Steve May (St Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

10:24

Foul by John Rankin (Dundee United).

10:24

Gary McDonald (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

9:00

Keith Watson (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

8:58

Foul by Michael O'Halloran (St Johnstone).

6:09

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Radoslaw Cierzniak.

5:51

Attempt saved. Steve May (St Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

4:47

Attempt missed. Chris Millar (St Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

3:11

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

3:11

Sean Dillon (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

1:25

Attempt missed. Gary McDonald (St Johnstone) header from the left side of the six yard box is just a bit too high.

0:56

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Gavin Gunning.

0:28

Steven Anderson (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

0:28

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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