After a Hampden horror show 12 months ago, some thought it may be the end of Dom Ball’s Aberdeen career.
But now, as he prepares to return to the national stadium this weekend, he says it was the making of him as a Dons player.
On Sunday the Reds will bid to reach the Scottish Cup final by defeating Celtic in the semi-final.
The last-four clash will take place exactly a year to the day since Derek McInnes’ side lost 3-0 to Motherwell at the same stage of the competition.
With Shay Logan suspended Ball was drafted in at right-back and the Rotherham loanee endured a difficult afternoon.
He was at fault for the Steelmen’s opener because he stopped to appeal for handball when Richard Tait controlled Kari Arnason’s wayward header with his arm.
Referee Kevin Clancy was unmoved and Tait squared for Curtis Main to make it 1-0 and Aberdeen couldn’t recover from the setback.
Ball faced plenty of criticism after that, but bounced back by playing the final five Premiership games of last season and then being re-signed on loan from Rotherham by Aberdeen last summer.
This term he has played 34 times for the Reds and the Englishman believes he has proved himself at Pittodrie.
The 23-year-old said: “My memory is that it was a rubbish day. A lot was made of me having not played at right-back but in the run-up to it I hadn’t played much at all.
“It was a wake-up call for me and I look back on that day and think about what has changed since then for me and it’s been brilliant.
“I’ve played nearly 50 games for Aberdeen since then and I have been playing well and enjoying my football.
“That game last year was a turning point for me because I had a lot to prove after that.
“Regardless of where I was playing, whether it was right-back or anywhere else, people can look to that as an excuse.
“But it doesn’t matter because I wasn’t good enough on the day and I think since then I have proved myself. I want to continue to prove and better myself with Aberdeen.”
Some players might shy away from a frank assessment of their performance after such a display, but not Ball.
He believes he is in a better place ahead of this weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final, when it is expected he will again fill in at right-back for the injured Logan.
Ball added: “Everyone’s character is different and everyone looks critically at their game in different ways.
“Some people maybe don’t do it as much as others.
“But I think if you are going to learn and improve then you need to be critical of yourself.
“It’s not just what you think, it’s what other people think; whether it’s the manager, coaches, family or friends, they can see what has happened. But you can see it as well and, for me, since then it has been about proving people wrong and proving myself right.
“I wanted to enjoy my football and I have done.
“I’ve played a lot this season and I feel fit, which is important.
“I’ve played the last seven or eight games at right-back so I feel like I have a better understanding of the position.
“Every game has brought something new and something different.
“I am still learning but I have enjoyed it and I’m hoping I can continue that for the rest of the season.”
Ball is confident ahead of Aberdeen’s latest meeting with Celtic.
The Dons drew 0-0 with the Hoops in a league encounter at Parkhead last month and were unlucky to lose December’s League Cup final 1-0 to the Glasgow side.
In that game ref Andrew Dallas awarded a penalty against Ball in incredible circumstances, when he headed the ball on to his hand outside the box.
However, Joe Lewis saved Scott Sinclair’s spot-kick and Ball said: “We really felt we deserved something out of that final.
“It was a split-second lack of concentration and they scored.
“Celtic also had the penalty, but they didn’t score it. We were on top in that game with 10 minutes to go and everyone was hoping we would score, but it didn’t happen.
“I think we are getting closer. At Celtic Park a few weeks ago we again thought we could have come away with a win.
“But that shows why they are at the top of the league because they grind out results when they’re not playing well.
“We need to be at our best and I think we will be.”