Motherwell collected three valuable points from the mid-table battle at Fir Park, with an Andy Tod own goal and a Richie Foran strike proving decisive.
Both sides made changes to their starting line-ups after excellent wins last week with Terry Butcher bringing back Phil O'Donnell in place of young Paul Quinn.
Pars boss David Hay had to replace striker Craig Brewster after his move to Inverness. His place was taken by Andy Tod, with Greg Shields back at right-back for Greg Ross.
Within a minute of the start Donnelly fired a shot just over for the visitors. Sadly this did not usher in a passage of good football, it only fooled everybody into a false sense of security.
We were then treated to as poor a 25 minutes as you will ever likely see in a top league match.
The game woke up after 25 minutes as it provided the opening goal of the match, although the nature of it was in keeping with the remainder of the game.
Steven Hammell played a hopeful ball into the box only for Scott Wilson to prod the ball past his own keeper Stillie. Even at that the ball should've been cleared off the line by Tod, who only managed to hit the post for the ball to bounce over the line.
Within three minutes Dunfermline were reduced to ten men - a long ball was contested by Aaron Labonte and David Clarkson, with the Pars player forcing the ball out for a throw.
But Clarkson was left on the ground holding his face and referee McCurry was in no doubt what had happened and showed Labonte a straight red card.
This did not deter the visitors as they pushed for an equaliser, Scott Leitch was in the right place at the right time as Billy Mehmet's volley hit him and bounced clear for a corner. Mehmet saw his shot saved by Gordon Marshall this time.
The second half started brighter with Hammell firing wide for Well and Scott Thomson repeating the feat at the other end. Well could have put the game beyond the Pars after 56 minutes but Jamie Paterson dallied on Foran's through ball and his effort was blocked.
The second goal did come in the 62nd minute after Derek Stillie did well to keep out Clarkson's close-range header, only for Foran to head home the rebound.
This did not kill the challenge from the Fifers as they pulled one back three minutes later when Tod got the merest of flicks on a Barry Nicholson corner to send the ball in at the far post.
It was never pretty as Motherwell struggled to close the game out, particularly as a Nicholson free-kick was well held by Marshall, but they held on to move above Hearts after three straight SPL wins.
Pars boss Hay said after the game: "The sending off influenced the game but we can't fault the efforts of the players. Even at one down at that stage we had the better stages of the play." Butcher was delighted with another scruffy win for his side and commented: "I'm delighted for the players but not for the spectators.
"We have played well in other games and got nothing, then we play poorly like we did today and we get all three points.
"Dunfermline did well and we haven't learned from facing ten men last week and still made hard work of it."