Motherwell consolidated their place in third spot by sweeping aside nearest challengers Dundee United at Fir Park.
Motherwell put on an excellent show for their home fans
The home side made a whirlwind start, with Stephen Hughes drilling home before Chris Porter's clever header.
Ross McCormack smashed in a third with just 17 minutes gone, while United's David Robertson powered in a header before the interval.
David Clarkson added a header and a sensational chip, while Noel Hunt bagged two late consolation goals.
Managers Mark McGhee and Craig Levein are among the front-runners for the vacant Scotland post and, on this evidence, the Motherwell boss has certainly stolen a march in that race.
Motherwell responded in positive style after two consecutive losses, while United slumped to their fifth defeat in six outings.
Goalkeeper Grzegorz Szamotulski may be regretting his decision to stay with United until the end of January since he was offered very little protection in a breathtaking start to the match.
Motherwell simply tore the visitors apart with their sharp once-touch passing and the Pole made an early save from McCormack before the striker cleared the crossbar with his next shot.
Steven McGarry then fired narrowly wide before good work from Clarkson set up Hughes for the opener.
The former Rangers and Leicester midfielder ran out to a smart cutback and rifled a shot beyond Szamotulski from 15 yards out.
Clarkson was again involved in the second goal when he laid the ball off to Jim Paterson, who crossed from the left for Porter to guide a header home from the centre of the penalty area.
Levein's side were undone again when McCormack had time to take the ball on his chest before blazing in a volley from close range after Szamotulski had blocked Porter's header.
Dundee United made two substitutions after just 23 minutes, throwing on Garry Kenneth and Robertson, with the latter reducing the deficit before half-time.
With towering defender Lee Wilkie pushed into attack, United got a foothold in the match when Robertson threw himself at a Sean Dillon cross to bullet in an impressive header.
Porter was among the scorers at Fir Park
Robertson was denied a second early in the second half, with keeper Graeme Smith diving bravely at his feet as he charged on to a Wilkie knock-down.
However, Motherwell stretched their lead again when Clarkson nodded home from a whipped free-kick from McCormack on 53 minutes.
Two minutes later, Clarkson grabbed his second goal with a wonderful chip over the stranded Szamotulski.
United battled away gamely and skipper Barry Robson clipped the crossbar with a strong shot from 18 yards.
The visitors were rewarded when Willo Flood's cross into the danger zone saw the ball fly home, with Hunt claiming the strike as he challenged with Phil O'Donnell.
Wilkie then spurned a glorious chance, somehow heading wide of a gaping goal from six yards.
And that miss was to prove costly as United pulled back yet another scrappy goal, with Smith flapping at a cross and Hunt again applying the final touch.
Motherwell: Graeme Smith, Quinn, Craigan, Reynolds, Paterson, McGarry (Lasley 77), Hughes, O'Donnell (Fitzpatrick 78), Clarkson (Darren Smith 85), Porter, McCormack. Subs Not Used: Meldrum, Corrigan, Brian McLean, Murphy.
Goals: Hughes 11, Porter 14, McCormack 17, Clarkson 55, 56.
Dundee Utd: Szamotulski, Dillon, Wilkie, Dods, Flood, Gomis, Kerr, Buaben (Kenneth 24), Robson (Conway 72), Jordan Robertson (David Robertson 24), Hunt. Subs Not Used: McLean, Cameron, Duff, Milligan.
Goals: David Robertson 36, Hunt 75, 90.
Ref: C Allan