Aberdeen battled to a 2-1 win over Hearts at Pittodrie to put the pressure on Kilmarnock in the hunt for automatic European qualification.
After a fiery, but poor, opening period, the Dons took the lead through Lewis Ferguson, only to concede. Bobby Burns got the Jambos’ goal.
However, a fantastic Greg Stewart strike – James Wilson’s second assist of the night – secured the points and put the Reds back into third in the Premiership.
Rivals for Europe Killie can leapfrog Aberdeen on goal difference by beating Hibs at Rugby Park tomorrow.
Dons boss Derek McInnes’ most notable change for the Hearts meeting was the inclusion of fit-again skipper Graeme Shinnie, who injured an ankle in the first post-split game against Kilmarnock.
It was a final home appearance for the midfielder, who will join English side Derby County when his contract runs out at the end of the campaign. He was given a standing ovation by the fans at full-time.
Andy Considine also returned from suspension at centre-back, as Mikey Devlin and Stevie May dropped out from last weekend’s 3-0 loss to Celtic.
After a poor first 20 minutes, Shinnie had the first real chance to get a shot off for Aberdeen, but tried to slide in James Wilson when he’d have been better having an effort from just inside the Hearts area.
Soon after, Bobby Burns was booked for a late lunge on Dom Ball near the Dons’ box – one of a number of robust early challenges in a typically physical Reds-Jambos clash.
On 27 minutes, Greg Stewart burst into life. He robbed Harry Cochrane on the edge of the visitors’ area and fired low past Colin Doyle’s right post, with the keeper rooted.
It was a low-key opening half hour though. McInnes’ team were controlling the middle of the park well and putting together some decent passes, but a breakdown – especially in the final third – was never far away.
On 36 minutes, Sam Cosgrove went down in the box under challenge from Sean Clare as Wilson swung in an Aberdeen corner, however, referee Bobby Madden ordered a retake instead of a more significant decision.
Hearts’ first shot came courtesy of Oliver Bozanic from miles out not long after, but the dipping strike landed right in keeper Joe Lewis’ hands.
Before the break, Lewis was twice lunged at by Jambos players. Clevid Dikamona and Conor Shaughnessy both dived in late once the ball was either gone or in Lewis’ hands, with the latter challenge leaving the goalie poleaxed.
Madden failed to produce a card for either incident, to the fury of the Red Army.
Once play had restarted, Stewart had another half chance when Doyle palmed a Max Lowe cross from the left down to the attacker, but he hooked wide with his back to goal, while Lewis blocked a low close-range effort from Dikamona.
After the break, the physical stuff continued, with Clare jumping into Scott McKenna’s face after the defender had sent a header clear. Madden did produce a yellow card this time, with Andy Considine soon receiving one, too, for a challenge on Christophe Berra.
Cosgrove should have scored on 53 minutes after he was played clean through by Lewis Ferguson, but his effort was too close to Doyle, who pushed it wide. From the corner, Stewart flashed a great ball across the six-yard box from the left, with no one there to touch it home.
However, the pressure was building and the opener came moments later. James Wilson cut back from the right wing and played a left-footed ball in to the Hearts area, which dropped for Ferguson.
The midfielder had time to pick his spot and place an unstoppable half volley over Doyle’s right shoulder into the left of the net.
It could’ve been two on 61 minutes. Cosgrove again came close when he took the ball from Lowe on the left of the Jambos’ area and shot low for Doyle’s far post. However, the keeper got a good hand to it.
Just as the Dons were taking a stranglehold of the game, their work was undone. The Reds couldn’t get a ball into their area clear and Burns bundled the ball in past Lewis at the back post to draw Hearts level.
It was a frustrating slip-up and Shay Logan almost put it right straight away, heading into the ground and over from a Lowe cross.
On 72 minutes, Considine was forced off after taking a knock on halfway.
Two minutes later, Aberdeen’s lead was again almost restored, when a wicked Lowe cross from inside the area was deflected goalwards, but somehow it stayed out.
The second came for the Reds on 77 minutes. Wilson ran down the right flank with intent before playing an inch perfect cutback to Stewart on the penalty spot. Stewart met the ball perfectly with his right foot and curled it into the left top corner.
It was a brilliant finish.
Dikamona could perhaps count himself lucky to only see yellow once play restarted after he flew in above the knee on Dom Ball as the Dons midfielder drove by him.
Similarly, with the clock winding down, Lewis was lucky that when he was adjudged to have taken out Steven MacLean by Madden, the foul was just outside the Dons’ box.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, Lowe, Considine, McKenna, Shinnie, Ferguson, Stewart, Wilson, Cosgrove, Ball.
Subs: Devlin (for Considine 72), May (for Stewart 84),
Subs not used: Cerny, Gleeson, Campbell, Virtanen, Ross.
Hearts: Doyle, Shaughnessy, Berra, Bozanic, Clare, MacLean,Cochrane, Edwards, Brandon, Dikamona, Burns.
Subs: Hickey (for Brandon 61), Smith (for Cochrane 80), Wighton (for Edwards 85).
Subs not used: Zlamal, Lee, Mulraney, Petkov.