Jordan White was the hat-trick hero as Ross County triumphed in a vital relegation basement battle with Dundee United at Tannadice.

The big striker netted with just seconds on the clock before the Staggies were pegged back by a Jamie McGrath penalty.

However, County took control in the second half thanks to a White double to lift his side off the bottom of the table.

That position is now occupied by United which is almost a cruel turn of events considering on this day in 1983, they were crowned Scottish champions after beating Dundee at Dens.

Staggies boss Malky Mackay praised his team for playing without fear against Dundee United at Tannadice.

He said: “We are a team who don’t look fearful in this situation and that’s the way you have to be.

“There’s a calmness but an intensity about them in training.

“We knew we had to start fast, knowing there was going to be 10,000 fans and the intensity that could bring for Dundee United.

“They would have wanted to peg us back.

“So I told them we have to start well and get the first goal - so we were delighted we did.

“Jordan White takes some stick for not scoring goals but he’s been fundamental for me over the last two years.

“Other clubs know he causes them problems and last season the goals others scored a lot of that was down to Jordan.

“He’s looking good alongside the other strikers  so I am delighted for him to get a hat-trick and be walking about with the signed ball.”

Mackay’s counterpart on the day, Jim Goodwin, admits Dundee United will have to win their last three games if they hope to avoid the drop into the Championship.

He added: “We have three games to go so we have to try to win every single one of them because Ross County and Kilmarnock will pick up points.

“We have to raise our game for Livingston next week and go there with belief and personal pride.

“That’s what’s on the line now. We have to show a bit of courage now.”

The teams walked out of the tunnel to be confronted by a sea of tangerine on three sides of the ground with a bumper home support inside Tannadice producing an electric atmosphere.

However, those supporters were left stunned as the Staggies stormed into the lead with just 38 seconds on the clock.

George Harmon fired a corner in from the right to Jack Baldwin who headed back across goal for White to nod home from close range past United keeper Mark Birighitti.

The hosts tried to bounce back from that early setback and had a great chance to equalise in the 13th minute when Ian Harkes played a pass into the feet of centre-half Loick Ayina rampaging up from the back but with a clear sight of goal, his composure deserted him and his wild shot flew over County keeper Ross Laidlaw’s crossbar.

However, the Terrors equalised in the 24th minute.

Aziz Behich swung a cross into the County box with the ball striking Josh Sims’ arm. After a VAR review, referee John Beaton came over to look at the trackside monitor and decided to award a penalty.

Jamie McGrath stepped up and the Irish international made no mistake, calmly sending Laidlaw the wrong way with his spot-kick for his eighth goal of the season.

With so much at stake, this game was being played like a cup tie with Victor Loturi the next to try his luck for the Staggies with a low 20-yard shot that was held by Birighitti then, just seconds later, United’s teenage striker Rory MacLeod made space for himself before hitting a long-range shot that stung Laidlaw’s palms.

Craig Sibbald tested the County keeper again with a 25-yard strike that the diving Laidlaw punched to safety.

The hosts had the first opportunity after the break when a Steven Fletcher snapshot took a deflection and flew just past Laidlaw’s left-hand post.

The keeper was called into action shortly after, palming away a wicked McGrath free-kick for a corner.

Birighitti’s heart was in his mouth as he slipped while attempting a clearance but Victor Loturi could not take advantage for the Staggies.

The Australian keeper then twice came to his side’s rescue with a quick-fire double save from Sims.

However, Birighitti could not prevent County taking the lead once more in the 57th minute.

Sub Nohan Kenneh’s scuffed cross from the right found White who got the vital touch ahead of Birighitti that took the ball into the back of the net.

Then just 15 minutes later, White secured his hat-trick.

David Cancola found sub Simon Murray on the left of the home box and the former United man squared the ball to leave White with a tap-in to set the seal on a priceless three points to the delight of the 375 travelling fans.