A FIRST senior goal from young Tom Grivosti sent Ross County eight points clear of Dundee United in the title race.

The former Bolton Wanderers youth, a late first-half substitute, hammered in a vital header just after the hour mark to secure another huge three points for the champions-elect.

A failure by Robbie Neilson’s side to beat Ayr United on Friday evening would now set-up a potential title-clincher for County with a win then needed at home to Partick Thistle to seal a Premiership return.

It was no night for the purists as the Pars put in a dominant first-half display, only to succumb to a County revival after the break.

County looked flat through much of the first half, with the Fifers forcing the best of the chances.

On-loan Aberdeen striker Bruce Anderson snapped at the heels of the home defence early on and forced a strong block from Dutchman Kenny van der Weg after only six minutes.

When a Van der Weg sent a clearance straight to Dunfermline’s Matthew Todd soon after, the Pars’ wide man thrashed in a first-time shot, with Scott Fox tipping it over the bar.

Approaching the half hour, Todd was unlucky to rattle the upright with a 15-yard snapshot while, a couple of minutes later, James Craigen curled a 20-yard attempt around the outside of the County post.

But County re-emerged after the break a different side. Michael Gardyne’s rocketed attempt was parried over the bar by keeper Ryan Scully after a foray on the left and, moments later, Brian Graham’s front post header spun wide.

Jamie Lindsay, scorer of that dramatic leveller against Dundee United, was next to tear forward and drive a stinging shot against the gloves of Scully.

The raised energy and tempo continued with Gardyne’s hanging cross from the left met close in by the raised leg of Brian Graham, but parried to safety by the keeper.

County’s reward came just after the hour. Josh Mullin’s corner from the left swirled to the edge of the six-yard box and there, grabbing his first senior goal, was centre-half Tom Grivosti to bulge the net with a thumping header.

Rather than rest on their lead, County tore forward again – and bedlam ensued. From another Mullin corner, El Bakhtaoui somehow cleared off the line from Ross Stewart’s header.

Graham was then denied by Scully’s block and referee Don Robertson waved away howls for a County penalty when Stewart tumbled.

ROSS COUNTY: (4-4-2) – Fox 7; Fraser 6, Boyle 7, Van der Weg 6 (Grivosti 45, 7), Kelly 6; Mullin 7, Cowie 6, Lindsay 6, Gardyne 7 (Spence 89, 2); Stewart 6, Graham 7 (McManus 82, 3). Subs: Munro, Spence, Semple, Paton, Armstrong.

Booked: Lindsay 80

DUNFERMLINE: (4-4-2) – Scully 7; Craigen 6, Devine 7, Ashcroft 6, J. Longridge 6; Todd 7 (McCann 82, 3), Beadling 6, Blair 6, Hippolyte 6 (Muirhead 70, 4) ; Anderson 6, L. Longridge 6 (El Bakhtaoui 34., 6). Subs: Gill, Williamson, Durnan, Vincent, McCann

Booked: Anderson 78

Referee: Don Robertson.