Dundee United and Hibernian shared a point each after a hard-fought goalless draw at Tannadice. It was a disappointment for both sides as they pursued the three points that would have allowed the victors to put pressure on beleaguered Dunfermline in the contest for a top-six finish in the Scottish Premier League - and the possibility of European qualification.
In-form Hibernian, who qualified for the CIS Insurance Cup final by beating Rangers last Thursday, enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening half, but United came back strongly after the break and created the two best chances of the game but Charlie Miller and Billy Dodds failed to take them.
The United captain Derek McInnes reclaimed his place in the starting line-up at the expense of suspended forward Andy McLaren. Hibs were without banned Scott Brown and Alan Reid, so their manager, Bobby Williamson, brought in Stephen Dobbie and Steven Whittaker.
Hibs went at their hosts' jugular from the off and were unlucky that Garry O'Connor's early header went over the crossbar. The Edinburgh side continued to press and created the next opening, after 16 minutes, but Derek Riordan leaned back and fired over with a good sight of goal.
United had offered little in the opening stages, although they did have a reasonable penalty claim denied when Colin Murdock appeared to handle the ball inside the box. The home players protested furiously but the referee was well placed and was satisfied there had been no intent and waved play on.
The Hibs fans were angered with his decision-making minutes later when he failed to play an advantage when Dobbie was clean through after a foul by Alan Archibald on O'Connor.
It took United 35 minutes to create even a sniff of a chance as Mark Wilson's cross flew tantalisingly across the area without a decisive contact.
This seemed to inject belief into the Tangerines and they began to show an urgency that had been missing previously. Dodds came close with only seconds of the half remaining, but goalkeeper Daniel Andersson saved his volley.
Hibs were forced into a change at the interval as Roland Edge came off to be replaced by Gary Smith.
United had to be alert in the 49th minute when a mistake by Archibald allowed O'Connor the opportunity to break through on goal but he could not dig out a shot. Barry Robson showed plenty of skill in the 55th minute but his curling effort was clawed away by Andersson.
United showed far more vigour in the second half than they had the first and they were denied a strong penalty claim in the 61st minute when Dodds headed the ball off Gary Caldwell's arm from point-blank range. However, the referee decided it was ball to hand and dismissed the protests.
Hibs were forced to make another change just before the hour when the substitute Smith limped off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Tom McManus.
Miller squandered a wonderful chance after 74 minutes when he beat the offside trap to gather a through-ball but lost out to Andersson in a one-on-one.
Miller and Dodds created a similar chance almost immediately, but Dodds' initial effort was blocked.
Both sides, clearly desperate for the fifth place a win either way would bring, threw everything into the game in the closing stages but neither could make the breakthrough.
Dundee Utd: Gallacher, Wilson, McCracken, Innes, Archibald, Kerr, McInnes, Miller, Robson, Dodds, McIntyre. Substitutes: Jarvie, Samuel, Duff, Easton, Scotland.
Hibernian: Andersson, Caldwell, Murdock, Doumbe, Edge (G Smith, h-t; McManus, 59), Whittaker, Wiss, Thomson, Riordan, O'Connor, Dobbie. Substitutes: Alistair Brown, Nicol, McCluskey.
Referee: C Thomson (Scotland).Reuse content