Derek McInnes is sent to the stands but Aberdeen close gap on Celtic with win
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes was sent to the stand at Tannadice but was ultimately a happy man after a 1-0 win over Dundee United saw them close the gap on Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Celtic.
Simon Church headed the only goal in the 29th minute as the Dons took advantage of Celtic's draw with Dundee to move four points behind.
McInnes was punished for protesting over a second disallowed goal for his side after Bobby Madden had harshly booked Graeme Shinnie for diving, but his side withstood some late pressure to claim a crucial win.
United were looking for a third consecutive victory over a top-four side after reviving their flagging survival hopes by beating Hearts and Ross County, but they remain eight points adrift.
They had the first shots at goal with Scott Brown saving comfortably from Gavin Gunning and John Rankin but there was little goalmouth action in the opening quarter.
United were unsuccessfully trying to play Billy Mckay over the top at every opportunity while Aberdeen, with Barry Robson making his first start of the season, were shading possession but not posing a threat.
When they did so they were denied by an offside flag as Church converted Kenny McLean's low right-wing cross from close range.
But the Wales striker had his goal within 60 seconds. Shay Logan made space to cross from the right after a throw-in and Church got there first to glance a header home from inside the six-yard box.
Aberdeen should have doubled their lead five minutes later after Shinnie appeared to be tripped by Gunning as he weaved his way into the box. Peter Pawlett scuffed the loose ball towards goal and Paul Dixon sliced his attempted clearance into his own net, but Madden gave a free-kick to the hosts and booked Shinnie for diving.
It was too much for McInnes, who paid the price for complaining to fourth official Barry Cook.
Gunning almost added insult to injury but was inches away from connecting with Scott Fraser's corner.
United brought on Henri Anier at half-time for Florent Sinama Pongolle, whose main contribution had been to volley a shot over the stand.
The Estonian was at the heart of United's second-half threat but was denied by Ash Taylor's last-ditch slide tackle, a block and a decent save from Brown.
McLean twice shot wide from half-chances at the other end and sent Church clear after dispossessing Mark Durnan, but the striker's touch allowed the United defender to make amends for his error.
Aberdeen brought on centre-back Mark Reynolds for attacking midfielder Pawlett but were still creating the better chances on the break. McLean and Church both failed to hit the target from Niall McGinn crosses.
But the Dons needed two excellent late saves from Brown to hold on as he stopped shots from Coll Donaldson and Gunning following high balls into the box.