ABERDEEN secured a second straight win over Rangers in Glasgow with a 1-0 triumph in a fiery encounter at Ibrox.
The Dons followed up their 1-0 BetFred Cup semi-final defeat of Steven Gerrard’s expensively assembled side in October with another victory on the road.
The impressive win moved Aberdeen into the Premiership top six and knocked Rangers off top spot.
It was also a statement of intent that Aberdeen, now four games unbeaten against Rangers, are going to scrap to retain the mantle of Scotland’s second best side.
Defender Scott McKenna gave Aberdeen a dream start in the seventh minute when rifling in at the far post.
Aberdeen had to play a man down after striker Sam Cosgrove was sent off in the 33rd minute for a second yellow card.
However it became 10 men apiece when Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos was also sent packing for a second yellow in the 65th minute of a blood n’ guts encounter.
Aberdeen pitched up at Ibrox for this clash a year to the day since the Rangers board made an official approach to Aberdeen to talk to Derek McInnes about their then vacant managerial position.
Pittodrie chairman Stewart Milne refused the Rangers board permission to speak to McInnes but gave the Dons boss and assistant Tony Docherty time to mull over the situation.
Two days later McInnes knocked back Rangers advances to remain at Pittodrie.
Six months later McInnes led the Dons to a Premiership runners-up finish ahead of Rangers in May.
Now he has led Aberdeen to back to back wins over a Rangers side bolstered by a £10million summer spending spree by Steven Gerrard.
Aberdeen made one change to the side that lost the BetFred Cup final 1-0 to Celtic at Hampden on Sunday.
Teenager Connor McLennan was handed a starting slot ahead of Scotland international Gary Mackay-Steven who is ruled out with concussion.
Mackay-Steven was hospitalized following a clash of heads in the final that knocked the winger unconscious and required treatment on the pitch by medics for six minutes.
He was released from hospital on the night of the final but was ruled out for Ibrox.
McLennan had come on in the final for Mackay-Steven and impressed.
Aberdeen got off to the perfect start against the league leaders in going ahead in the seventh minute,
A Niall McGinn free kick was flighted into the box was headed down by Sam Cosgrove.
Scotland international centre-back Scott McKENNA pounced to slam into the roof of the net from 10 yards out.
Moments later Graeme Shinnie fired in a low 22 yard drive that keeper Allan McGregor blocked.
In the 25th minute Alfredo Morelos connected with a Connor Goldson delivery at the near post but his glancing header slammed into the side netting from five yards out.
On the half-hour mark Morelos rose to meet a free-kick 15 yards out but headed well over.
Aberdeen’s game plan, which had been so effective, went out the window in the 33rd minute when Sam Cosgrove was sent off for a second yellow following a high footed challenge on Goldson.
The striker was already on a booking and walking a tight-rope.
It was near Rangers right byline and there was no need to make such a challenge.
Cosgrove won the ball however and Goldson appeared to kick the bottom of the striker’s foot.
In the 41st minute Glenn Middleton fired a low drive in from 25 yards and Joe Lewis reacted quickly to push it wide with a superb save.
Dons keeper Lewis produced a magnificent double save in the 51st minute to deny Rangers. First he blocked a powerful drive from the edge of the box by substitute Kyle Lafferty, on at half time.
The ball was cleared as far as Ryan Jack, the former Aberdeen captain, who shot low from 22 yards.
His drive took a deflection but Lewis dived to his right to block for another superb save,
On the hour mark Niall McGinn redirected a Shay Logan cross towards goal from 25 yards out but it was straight at keeper McGregor who saved easily.
Parity was restored with players on the pitch when Morelos received a second yellow card for catching Shinnie with an arm.
Columbian international Morelos was gunning to score in a record eighth straight Premiership game. Any chance of that was over as he trudged off the pitch.
In the 77th minute James Tavernier fired in a shot that was charged down as the Dons continued to defend resolutely to secure the three points.
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan, Shinnie, Considine, McKenna, McGinn, Cosgrove, Ferguson, Ball, McLennan, Lowe.
Subs: May (for McLennan 73), Wright (for McGinn 83),
Subs not used: Cerny, Gleeson, Wilson, Campbell, Anderson.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Jack, Ejaria, Flanagan, Morelos, Candeias, Coulibaly, McAuley, Middleton.
Subs: Lafferty (for Flanagan 46), Grexfs (for Coulibaly 53),
Subs not used: Foderingham, Worrall, Halliday, McCrorie, Rossiter.
Referee: Steven McLean