With three league games remaining – the first of which is at Ross County this Saturday – ’Well are sixth on 40 points, a single point adrift of fifth placed County and four behind United.
The nature of the game’s only goal after 37 minutes at Tannadice was cruel on ’Well, with an effort by United’s on-loan Manchester United midfielder Dylan Levitt taking a wicked deflection off Sean Goss before looping over keeper Liam Kelly and into the net.
The Steelmen had earlier started the game well, with two changes in their starting XI seeing Kaiyne Woolery and Mark O’Hara in for Joe Efford and Dean Cornelius respectively.
A long kick forward by Kelly after 10 minutes got Ross Tierney in behind the home defence but his effort on goal cruelly bounced clear off the post.
The woodwork denied the visitors again 10 minutes later after advantage was given following a foul on the edge of the box for an infringement on Tierney.
Woolery gathered the ball and fired in a powerful shot which rebounded back off the crossbar.
Waves of Motherwell attacks continued in the next few minutes, but they were unable to make any of these count via a goal.
The sucker punch duly arrived via Levitt’s goal but it was the claret and amber outfit who continued to create the more chances.
Into the second half and home goalie Benjamin Siegrist rushed out of his area to combat the sprinting Woolery. The ball fell to Tierney 30 yards out but his chip was gathered by Siegrist as he rushed back.
’Well flooded forward in the final minutes, switching to 4-2-3-1 and pushing centre back Bevis Mugabi up front.
The pattern of play towards United’s goal continued but ’Well just couldn’t equalise.
Ricki Lamie headed wide from a Callum Slattery free-kick from the left, Tierney had a close range header brilliantly saved by Siegrist and O’Hara nodded wide from another Slattery setpiece.
Dundee United: Siegrist, Neilson, Edwards, Graham, Smith, Meekison, Mulgrew, Levitt, McMann (Niskanen 74), McNulty (Clark 80), Watt (Sporle 89).
Motherwell: Kelly, Mugabi, Ojala (Efford 64), Lamie, O’Hara, Slattery, Goss, Carroll, Woolery (Donnelly 80), Tierney, Shields.
Referee: Kevin Clancy