As soon as the substitute James Grady sealed the success with an injury- time goal, the taunt of "There's only one team in Dundee" filled the air. United had been gulping for air ever since Brian Irvine's 68th-minute header, and they still remain in need of a lifeline.
So much has happened since Britain's closest football neighbours - separated by just 150 yards - last met on New Year's Day, that few of the previous 101 Tayside derbies can have been so keenly anticipated. All the 14,000 seats inside the ground were taken, but rarely were they used as supporters spent every second on their feet hurling abuse at their rivals.
Dundee have told United and the Italian entrepreneur Giovanni di Stefano that they wanted the money of neither and the renewed sense of confidence which has flowed through the club was evident.
Eddie Annand almost scored in the 18th minute when a sublime pass from Steven Boyack released the Dundee striker, but he stabbed his shot instead of guiding it, allowing the goalkeeper, Sieb Dykstra, to block. Dykstra's alertness then rescued United again when Lee Maddison's shot took a wicked deflection.
United's John Eustace, a half-time substitute, almost made a dramatic impact in the 51st minute when he burst through, but was cynically brought down by Irvine just outside the area. Irvine's booking was scant justice as was Billy Dodds' free-kick, which cannoned off the wall.
However, 16 minutes later the deadlock was broken when Boyack's corner was met with a powerful Irvine header.
If United thought things could not get any worse, Darren Patterson proved them wrong. The Northern Ireland defender receiving his second yellow when he chopped down Annand in the 75th minute.Reuse content