Aberdeen ended the year on a high with a 1-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle to give hopes of finishing second in the Premiership in 2017 a major boost.
A second half goal from Jonny Hayes fired the dominant Dons to a third successive victory.
Derek McInnes’ third placed Reds are now six points ahead of Hearts and have played a game less.
It was a dominant performance against a disjointed Jambos that Aberdeen should have won by a higher scoreline.
In previous seasons Hearts had won the physical battle against the Dons.
Not this time.
The Dons bossed this clash physically, tactically and in terms of attacking intent.
Crucially the Dons are now just two points behind Rangers who will tomorrow attempt to do what no Scottish club has achieved this season – defeat runaway Premiership leaders Celtic.
Should Rangers lose the Old Firm showdown at Ibrox the advantage in the race to finish runners-up will shift back to the Dons.
Aberdeen will trail Rangers by just two points but have that vital game in hand.
Now the Reds can jet off for a week long training camp in Dubai next month on a high.
Due to the winter shutdown Aberdeen are not in action again until a Scottish Cup tie against Stranraer on Saturday January 21.
Aberdeen will however face Uzbekistan side FC Bunyodkor in Dubai in a friendly on Sunday January 15.
There was a 1,451 strong travelling Red Army amidst the 16,630 crowd at Tynecastle.
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes named the same starting line-up for the third successive game following back to back wins over Motherwell and Hamilton.
The first incident of note was a yellow card to Shaleum Logan in the eighth minute for a foul on Jamie Walker.
Moments later a searching cross from Niall McGinn on the left was easily collected by Jambos’ keeper Jack Hamilton.
Aberdeen were looking the far more dangerous and composed in the opening exchanges but could not capitalise on a nervousness in the Hearts rearguard.
The Reds came close to opening the scoring on the quarter hour mark when Andrew Considine raced onto a McGinn corner, only to head inches wide from 12 yards.
Keeper Joe Lewis was called into action for the first time in the 19th minute when he dived low to his right to save a dipping Walker free-kick.
The dead-ball situation came from a foul by Ash Taylor on Bjorn Johnsen.
Centre-back Taylor was booked.
Played at a frantic pace early on neither team were displaying much composure in possession with too many loose, hurried passes.
But the Dons were denied in the 27th minute when Kenny McLean rose at the back post to meet a McGinn cross.
McLean’s powerful header was pushed wide by an impressive save from Hamilton.
Again Hamilton came to the rescue for Hearts as he produced a vital block at the near post to turn a low McGinn shot wide in the 32nd minute.
Hearts fans were becoming vocal in their frustration as Aberdeen began to dominate.
The woodwork denied the Dons a deserved opener in the 42nd minute when a 25 yard drive from Graeme Shinnie rattled off the post with Hamilton beaten.
Striker Adam Rooney latched onto the rebound. But the ball deflected off keeper Hamilton on the way back off the post and that wrongfooted Rooney, who screwed a shot wide.
It was the last real action of a half Aberdeen should have been leading.
The second began as the first ended, with the Reds on top probing for the deserved first goal.
It nearly came in the 53rd minute when Logan flipped the ball wide of Walker and unleashed a low volley from the edge of the box that was deflected wide.
Moments later Rooney headed over from a Logan cross.
Chances were being created, and spurned by the Reds.
In a rare foray up front from Hearts Liam Smith headed a corner over the bar from 15 yards in the 64th minute.
The deserved opener came in the 66th minute when HAYES raced onto a McGinn cross along the face of goal to rifle home from six yards at the back post.
In the 82nd minute McLean turned sharply at the edge of the box and unleashed a low curling shot that Hamilton did well to block at his far post.
Despite the Reds dominance the failure to score a second made for a nervous finale with Lewis diving low at his near post to push behind a powerful drive from Walker in the 86th minute.
In the final seconds Don Cowie headed over from close range. It was the last touch of the match. It finished with cheers from the Red Army, and jeers from the frustrated home support.
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan, Shinnie, Considine, Taylor, Reynolds, McLean, Rooney, McGinn, Hayes, Jack.
SUBS: O’Connor (for McGinn 87)
SUBS NOT USED: Alexander, Burns, Pawlett, Stockley, Maddison, Storey.
HEARTS: Hamilton, Rherras, Rossi, Kitchen, Walker, Djoum, Souttar, Cowie, Nowak, Johnsen, Smith.
SUBS: Currie (for Djoum 74), Muirhead (for Rossi 82)
SUBS NOT USED: Noring, Ozturk, Oshaniwa, Sammon, Zanatta.
REFEREE: Willie Collum