Craig Conway and David Goodwillie inspired Dundee United to a victory that all but ends Kilmarnock's hopes of catching the fourth-top Taysiders.
Scott Severin rose unmarked to head home a Conway corner after 25 minutes.
Goodwillie headed in from Conway crosses seven minutes before and two minutes after the break.
Conway fired the fourth two minutes later before Killie replied through David Silva's long-ranger on 70 minutes and Manuel Pascali's late header.
Both sides were looking to recover from 4-0 drubbings from either side of the Old Firm, but it was United who returned to form to move eight points clear of fifth-top Kilmarnock.
Winger Conway had come into a much-changed home side in place of young forward Johnny Russell.
The other changes were forced, with Keith Watson, Barry Douglas and Prince Buaben coming into the United starting line-up in place of Morgaro Gomis, Sean Dillon and Mihael Kovacevic, who were all sent off against Rangers.
Goodwillie (left) scored twice for United against Kilmarnock
Garry Hay replaced Silva in Kilmarnock's midfield, while Cammy Bell was preferred to Anssi Jaakola in goal, with manager Kenny Shiels being unhappy with the Finn's distribution in recent games.
However, Shiels' hopes that Bell would help Kilmarnock clear their lines more swiftly were dashed and Scott Robertson flashed a shot across the face of goal as United immediately pushed their opponents into defence with their high, pressing game.
Pascali, the midfielder who has recently been filling in at central defence, was having a nightmare start and Goodwillie came close to opening the scoring after the Italian failed to control a ball wide on Killie's left.
The United striker advanced into the box and fired a magnificent shot from a difficult angle off the underside of the crossbar.
Bell blocked well at close-range when Danny Swanson broke clear then Douglas curled a free-kick off the top of the bar after the latest Pascali foul.
Kilmarnock were feeding off scraps but threatened through player of the year nominee Alexei Eremenko, whose thundering effort from 25 yards was pushed into the air and dropped on to the top of the crossbar by goalkeeper Dusan Pernis, who gathered at the second attempt.
Tim Clancy headed wide from a good Hay cross to the back post, but those were only brief respites amid relentless United pressure, even while Goodwillie was off the field nursing an injury.
David Robertson flicked the ball across the Killie goalmouth from a Conway cross before the home side finally made their deserved breakthrough.
Severin rose unmarked to meet a Conway corner and power his header into the net.
Buaben almost handed Kilmarnock an unlikely equaliser with an outrageously poor back pass from his own half.
William Gross broke clear and it looked like he was clipped from behind by Garry Kenneth just outside the box as the young striker stumbled before sending a weak shot straight at Pernis.
That moment aside, United continued to impress and Goodwillie rose above his marker to head into the corner of the net from 12 yards from a cross whipped in by Conway.
Kilmarnock made changes at half-time, with Ryan O'Leary, who had gone off injured in the closing moments of the first half, being replaced with Silva and winger James Dayton coming on for Craig Bryson.
However, the changes failed to have the desired effect as United added another two goals in the opening moments of the second half.
A disinterested-looking Eremenko not for the first time lost possession and, when Conway sent another dangerous cross into the box, Goodwillie dived to head home from eight yards.
Conway added the fourth as a little pirouette left a trail of defenders before he fired powerfully into the far corner from 20 yards.
Jamie Hamill sent a long-range effort of his own just over the United crossbar via a deflection.
Kilmarnock managed a goal back with a stunning drive from Silva, while Eremenko forced a good save from Pernis.
Pascali met a Silva corner at the front post to send his header into the far corner with three minutes remaining, but tiring United held on to deliver a defeat that will do little for caretaker manager Shiels' hopes of winning the job on a permanent basis.
Live text and stats
Saturday, 23 April 2011
17 Douglas yellow card
18 Kenneth yellow card
06 Conway (Daly 90)
08 Robertson yellow card
12 Robertson (Armstrong 86)
14 Swanson (Russell 73)
21 van der Meulen,
32 Scott Allan,
02 Clancy yellow card
04 Fowler yellow card
19 O'Leary (Dayton 46)
07 Bryson (Silva 46)
29 Pascali yellow card
28 Gross (Agard 74)
Ref: WinterAtt: 5,225
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
90:00+2:52 The final whistle goes and the game is over.
90:00+1:30 Prince Buaben crosses the ball in from the free kick, save by Cameron Bell.
90:00+1:30 Booking James Fowler is given a yellow card.
90:00+1:22 James Fowler concedes a free kick for a foul on David Goodwillie.
90:00+0:53 Shot by David Goodwillie from 18 yards. Save made by Cameron Bell.
89:13 Barry Douglas restarts play with the free kick.
89:13 Substitution Craig Conway leaves the field to be replaced by Jon Daly.
89:13 Free kick awarded for a foul by James Fowler on Craig Conway.
86:56 Booking Garry Kenneth is cautioned.
86:54 Booking Tim Clancy is booked.
86:10 Assist by David Silva.
86:10 GOAL - Manuel Pascali:Dundee Utd 4 - 2 Kilmarnock Manuel Pascali scores a headed goal from close in. Dundee Utd 4-2 Kilmarnock.
85:54 Corner taken right-footed by David Silva from the left by-line to the near post,
85:14 Direct free kick taken by James Fowler.
85:14 Substitution (Dundee Utd) makes a substitution, with Stuart Armstrong coming on for David Robertson.
85:14 Kieran Agard fouled by David Robertson, the ref awards a free kick.
83:33 The referee blows for offside. Tim Clancy restarts play with the free kick.
82:43 Kieran Agard is ruled offside. Dusan Pernis takes the indirect free kick.
82:29 Alexei Eremenko takes a short corner.
82:14 Shot by Alexei Eremenko. Dusan Pernis makes a save.
81:41 Free kick awarded for a foul by Prince Buaben on Alexei Eremenko. James Fowler restarts play with the free kick.
80:24 Foul by David Goodwillie on Manuel Pascali, free kick awarded. Jamie Hamill takes the direct free kick.
79:39 Shot by Alexei Eremenko. Dusan Pernis makes a comfortable save.
78:32 Prince Buaben produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide left of the target.
78:01 Shot from just outside the area by Craig Conway goes over the bar.
73:12 Substitution Kieran Agard replaces William Gros.
72:40 Substitution Johnny Russell on for Daniel Swanson.
69:44 The assist for the goal came from James Fowler.
69:44 GOAL - David Silva:Dundee Utd 4 - 1 Kilmarnock David Silva grabs a goal from long range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Dundee Utd 4-1 Kilmarnock.
67:32 The referee gives a free kick against David Goodwillie for handball. Manuel Pascali restarts play with the free kick.
66:56 David Silva takes a shot. Comfortable save by Dusan Pernis.
65:38 Craig Conway is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Jamie Hamill takes the indirect free kick.
64:16 Jamie Hamill restarts play with the free kick.
64:16 Booking Booking for Barry Douglas for unsporting behaviour.
64:05 Foul by Barry Douglas on James Dayton, free kick awarded.
61:45 Foul by Craig Conway on Jamie Hamill, free kick awarded. Jamie Hamill takes the direct free kick.
59:55 Barry Douglas challenges James Dayton unfairly and gives away a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Jamie
Hamill from right wing, save by Dusan Pernis.
57:26 Alexei Eremenko takes a shot. Garry Kenneth gets a block in.
55:55 Free kick awarded for a foul by James Fowler on David Robertson. Free kick taken by Dusan Pernis.
52:45 Free kick crossed right-footed by Alexei Eremenko, Keith Watson manages to make a clearance.
52:45 Booking Scott Robertson is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
52:26 Scott Robertson concedes a free kick for a foul on Alexei Eremenko.
50:47 Free kick awarded for a foul by James Fowler on Craig Conway. Barry Douglas takes the direct free kick. The ball is sent over
by Craig Conway, Manuel Pascali manages to make a clearance.
50:24 James Dayton takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Prince Buaben manages to make a clearance.
50:06 Jamie Hamill takes a shot. Save by Dusan Pernis.
48:36 Assist by David Robertson.
48:36 GOAL - Craig Conway:Dundee Utd 4 - 0 Kilmarnock Goal scored by Craig Conway from 30 yards to the top right corner of the goal. Dundee Utd 4-0 Kilmarnock.
46:24 The assist for the goal came from David Robertson.
46:24 GOAL - David Goodwillie:Dundee Utd 3 - 0 Kilmarnock David Goodwillie scores a headed goal from close in. Dundee Utd 3-0 Kilmarnock.
46:20 The ball is sent over by David Robertson,
45:38 David Robertson takes the outswinging corner, Manuel Pascali manages to make a clearance.
45:01 The second half has started.
45:01 Substitution Ryan O'Leary goes off and James Dayton comes on.
45:01 Substitution David Silva replaces Craig Bryson.
45:00+1:29 The first half comes to an end.
45:00+1:00 Shot on goal by David Goodwillie from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
44:20 Effort on goal by Craig Conway from outside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
43:29 Corner from left by-line taken by Alexei Eremenko.
42:55 Unfair challenge on William Gros by Barry Douglas results in a free kick. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Alexei
Eremenko, Garry Kenneth manages to make a clearance.
39:12 Daniel Swanson challenges Garry Hay unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Alexei Eremenko.
37:57 Assist by Craig Conway.
37:57 GOAL - David Goodwillie:Dundee Utd 2 - 0 Kilmarnock David Goodwillie finds the back of the net with a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Dundee Utd 2-0 Kilmarnock.
37:53 A cross is delivered by Craig Conway,
37:29 Corner taken short by Craig Conway.
36:17 Unfair challenge on Craig Bryson by Scott Robertson results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Alexei Eremenko.
35:18 Unfair challenge on Keith Watson by Garry Hay results in a free kick. David Robertson restarts play with the free kick.
32:33 William Gros is ruled offside. Garry Kenneth takes the free kick.
28:14 William Gros takes a shot. Save by Dusan Pernis.
27:28 Manuel Pascali fouled by Prince Buaben, the ref awards a free kick. Cameron Bell takes the direct free kick.
24:36 Assist on the goal came from Craig Conway.
24:36 GOAL - Scott Severin:Dundee Utd 1 - 0 Kilmarnock Scott Severin scores a headed goal from close in. Dundee Utd 1-0 Kilmarnock.
24:13 Corner taken by Craig Conway from the right by-line,
23:54 Craig Conway decides to take the corner short.
23:06 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Craig Conway from the right by-line, Ryan O'Leary manages to make a clearance.
21:46 Corner taken right-footed by Craig Conway, clearance made by Tim Clancy.
20:55 Garry Hay crosses the ball, Tim Clancy produces a header from inside the six-yard box that clears the bar.
20:20 Alexei Eremenko decides to take a short corner.
16:38 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Alexei Eremenko from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Prince Buaben.
16:20 Alexei Eremenko takes a shot. Dusan Pernis makes a save.
13:45 Barry Douglas shoots direct from the free kick,
13:45 Booking Manuel Pascali receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.
13:35 Manuel Pascali gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Garry Kenneth.
13:14 Corner taken by Craig Conway, Garry Hay manages to make a clearance.
12:53 Daniel Swanson takes a shot. Save by Cameron Bell.
8:19 The official flags David Robertson offside. Cameron Bell takes the free kick.
5:53 James Fowler concedes a free kick for a foul on Prince Buaben. Shot on goal comes in from Scott Severin from the free kick.
4:50 Prince Buaben has a shot on goal from outside the area which misses left.
4:35 David Goodwillie takes a shot.
3:11 Scott Robertson produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.
0:49 Prince Buaben takes a shot.
0:00 The referee gets the game underway.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
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