Scott Vernon hit a superb hat-trick as Aberdeen saw off Dundee United in an enthralling meeting at Tannadice.

The 30-year-old broke the deadlock with an assured strike after Peter Pawlett's assist.

And, despite Sean Dillon levelling, Vernon put the result beyond doubt by sinking two further goals.

The Dons tightened their grip on second place in the Premiership, but United's hopes of securing European football through their league position are over.

This encounter comes with a long-standing history of great clashes, and it was evident from the off that this match would not disappoint.

Dundee United took to the pitch knowing only a win would do, as they looked to stay hot on the heels of Stuart McCall's Motherwell in third.

And they started with intent, but the away side gave as good as they got in the opening stages.

More than 100 goals have been scored in league games involving the Tangerines this season, and the packed crowd did not have to wait long to see one, as Scott Vernon - starting for the first time since January - gave the Dons the lead.

Following good work from Pawlett, Vernon confidently knocked a low shot beyond debutant goalkeeper Marc McCallum.

Sean Dillon celebrates

Sean Dillon takes the plaudits after levelling

Despite going behind, the Scottish Cup finalists did not let their heads go down, and could have equalised through Nadir Ciftci.

The front-man did well to create an opening and test Jamie Langfield, but the experienced stopper was more than equal to it, pulling off an impressive save.

The pendulum then swung back in favour of the visitors, who were hungry to add to their lead, but both Vernon and Barry Robson were unable to take advantage of good opportunities.

Derek McInnes' men were made to rue those missed chances when United levelled through an unlikely source.

Dillon restored parity when he collected a Stuart Armstrong cutback and rifled a ferocious shot towards goal that, after a deflection off Mark Reynolds, sailed home.

That gave the hosts confidence, and it was only thanks to two magnificent saves from the resolute Langfield, first from an Andrew Robertson effort, and then Mark Wilson's volley that looked destined for its target before the keeper touched it on to the woodwork, that the sides were neck and neck at the break.

The second half carried on in the frenetic manner of the first, and Aberdeen thought they had got themselves in front again when Niall McGinn bundled home a header after McCallum spilled, only for the goal to be chalked off for offside.

The goalkeeper then blocked an effort from Vernon.

But, when Robson floated in a wicked corner, there was to be no denying the striker this time.

Rising to connect with the ex-Tannadice favourite's inch perfect back-post delivery, he nodded in his second.

United could have responded almost immediately when, after a fine team move, Ciftci found himself in space, only to send the ball blazing over.

Aberdeen were on the back foot as United looked determined to equalise, and Jackie McNamara's men will feel aggrieved not to have pegged things back again when Ryan Dow produced a neat finish, only for the assistant referee to make a dubious offside call.

And that frustration was a sign of things to come for the home team as, despite their efforts, it was the travelling support who were again on their feet when the troublesome Vernon capitalised on a defensive error from Gavin Gunning to bag his hat-trick and seal the win.

Vernon ghosted in behind the defender to round McCallum and roll the ball in, despite John Souttar's attempts to clear.

Lineup, Bookings (3) & Substitutions (5)

Dundee United

  • 25 McCallum
  • 02 Dillon
  • 26 Robertson
  • 16 Wilson (El Alagui - 70' )
  • 20 Souttar
  • 05 Gunning Booked
  • 10 Armstrong
  • 27 Gomis
  • 21 Ciftci
  • 09 Graham
  • 18 Dow (Smith - 86' )

Substitutes

  • 01 Cierzniak
  • 12 Watson
  • 19 Gauld
  • 29 El Alagui
  • 37 Smith
  • 39 Connolly
  • 41 Fraser

Aberdeen

  • 01 Langfield
  • 22 Jack
  • 29 Logan
  • 08 Flood (Smith - 31' )
  • 06 Reynolds
  • 04 Anderson
  • 16 Pawlett
  • 15 Robson Booked
  • 09 Vernon (Zola - 88' )
  • 10 McGinn (Tate - 74' )
  • 11 Hayes Booked

Substitutes

  • 07 Zola
  • 14 Smith
  • 20 Weaver
  • 24 McManus
  • 28 Tate
  • 35 Murray
  • 36 Rose
Ref: Calum Murray
Att: 8,677

Match Stats

Shots

9 10

On target

4 4

Corners

7 2

Fouls

12 10

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 3.

90:00 +2:03 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 3.

90:00 +0:48 Booking

Booking Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.

90:00 +0:42

Foul by Gavin Gunning (Dundee United).

90:00 +0:42

Calvin Zola (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

89:31

Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

89:31

Foul by Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen).

87:40 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Aberdeen. Calvin Zola replaces Scott Vernon.

87:21

Attempt missed. Brian Graham (Dundee United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right.

86:32

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Jamie Langfield.

85:25 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Scott Smith replaces Ryan Dow.

77:45

Foul by Brian Graham (Dundee United).

77:45

Russell Anderson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

75:12 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 3. Scott Vernon (Aberdeen) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jamie Langfield.

74:13

Foul by Farid El Alagui (Dundee United).

74:13

Barry Robson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

73:57 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Aberdeen. Alan Tate replaces Niall McGinn.

73:49

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Cameron Smith.

73:06

Attempt missed. Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left misses to the left.

70:34

Attempt saved. Brian Graham (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

69:12 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Dundee United. Farid El Alagui replaces Mark Wilson.

67:33

Mark Wilson (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

67:33

Foul by Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen).

65:44 Booking

Booking Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen) is shown the yellow card.

65:39

Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

65:39

Foul by Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen).

64:37

Attempt missed. Gavin Gunning (Dundee United) header from the centre of the box is too high.

64:16

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Shaleum Logan.

57:47

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

57:47

Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen) wins a free kick on the right wing.

57:11

Attempt missed. Cameron Smith (Aberdeen) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.

56:28

Corner, Aberdeen. Conceded by Sean Dillon.

55:46

Attempt missed. Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is high and wide to the left.

54:46 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 2. Scott Vernon (Aberdeen) header from the left side of the six yard box to the top left corner. Assisted by Barry Robson with a cross following a corner.

53:59

Corner, Aberdeen. Conceded by Marc McCallum.

53:15

Attempt missed. Andrew Robertson (Dundee United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

52:07

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

52:07

Foul by Ryan Jack (Aberdeen).

48:23

Attempt missed. Barry Robson (Aberdeen) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left.

46:25

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Jonathan Hayes.

45:00

Second Half begins Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 1.

45:00 +1:54 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 1.

45:00 +0:47

Attempt saved. Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

45:00 +0:26

Foul by Andrew Robertson (Dundee United).

45:00 +0:26

Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

44:27

Attempt saved. Mark Wilson (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top right corner.

43:05

Attempt missed. Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.

40:13

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Russell Anderson.

39:17

Foul by Sean Dillon (Dundee United).

39:17

Barry Robson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick on the left wing.

36:32

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Jamie Langfield.

35:06

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

35:06

Foul by Shaleum Logan (Aberdeen).

33:43 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 1, Aberdeen 1. Sean Dillon (Dundee United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Stuart Armstrong with a cross.

32:25

Attempt missed. John Souttar (Dundee United) header from a difficult angle on the right misses to the right.

31:46

Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Ryan Jack.

30:28 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Aberdeen. Cameron Smith replaces Willo Flood because of an injury.

28:33

Foul by Scott Vernon (Aberdeen).

28:33

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

27:03

Foul by Mark Wilson (Dundee United).

27:03

Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:12

Foul by Ryan Jack (Aberdeen).

26:12

Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

25:02

Foul by Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United).

25:02

Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

24:07

Foul by Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen).

24:07

Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

22:32

Attempt missed. Barry Robson (Aberdeen) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

21:24

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

21:24

Russell Anderson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

20:43 Booking

Booking Barry Robson (Aberdeen) is shown the yellow card for dangerous play.

20:37

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

20:37

Foul by Barry Robson (Aberdeen).

20:01

Foul by Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United).

20:01

Barry Robson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

17:56

Foul by Brian Graham (Dundee United).

17:56

Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

16:02

Foul by Andrew Robertson (Dundee United).

16:02

Barry Robson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

15:17

Attempt missed. Scott Vernon (Aberdeen) left footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right.

11:51

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

10:55

Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

10:55

Foul by Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen).

6:37 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Dundee United 0, Aberdeen 1. Scott Vernon (Aberdeen) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Peter Pawlett with a cross.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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