Aberdeen’s winning streak ended with a home shocker to Motherwell in the worst possible preparation for Thursday’s Europa League clash with Sporting Lisbon.
The Dons were 3-0 down after only 23 minutes as the defence, minus Scotland international Scott McKenna, were ripped apart.
It was an unexpected collapse for previously in-form Aberdeen, who were chasing seven successive wins for the first time since September 2015.
The second half saw some improvement – but in truth it couldn’t have got much worse.
McKenna was left out of the squad after Aberdeen received a “significant offer” from Championship side Nottingham Forest.
The defender is heading to England to begin contract talks with the two-time European Cup winners.
Forest are confident of signing the centre-back in time for him to make a debut in their next game against Huddersfield Town on Friday.
Prior to kick-off, Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes confirmed the clubs were close to thrashing out a deal for McKenna.
Nottingham Forest had an offer of £3m for McKenna rejected by Aberdeen just days before the close of the summer transfer window last year.
However, Forest are edging close to finally landing the 16 times-capped Scotland international.
The Dons had conceded just one goal in the run of six straight wins and the question was how would the rearguard cope without McKenna.
It took under 10 minutes to discover – by which time the Reds were two goals down and defensively ragged.
Aberdeen went behind just four minutes in when a header out from Bevis Mugabi hit Marley Watkins’ arm.
Referee John Beaton awarded a spot kick and Mark O’HARA comfortably converted.
Motherwell were looking dangerous and doubled their advantage in the ninth minute courtesy of an uncharacteristic mistake from keeper Joe Lewis.
Club captain Lewis’ terrible clearance fell straight to Christopher LONG, who capatilised by racing at goal and unleashing a clinical drive.
A disastrous day continued when Liam Polwarth’s corner in the 23rd minute picked out MUGABI completely unmarked 12 yards out.
He fired in a bullet header which Lewis was unable to keep out.
Aberdeen were shell-shocked.
The woodwork denied the Dons in the 43rd minute when Watkins met a cross from Andy Considine on the left.
Watkins got into a pocket of space and headed beyond Trevor Carson in goal but the 12-yard effort rattled off the far post.
When the half-time whistle sounded there will have been some relief amid the Dons that there were no supporters present to boo.
Motherwell were well worth their three-goal advantage.
In response, manager McInnes made three changes at half-time with Ash Taylor, Funso Ojo and Niall McGinn all taken off.
Tommie Hoban, Shay Logan and Ryan Edmondson were taken on.
Edmondson, 19, returned from parent club Leeds United earlier in the week having recovered from an ankle injury.
Motherwell threatened again in the 66th minute when Long squared a pass to Liam Polwarth, but his 22-yard shot flew over.
ABERDEEN: Joe Lewis, Ross McCrorie, Ash Taylor, Andy Considine, Jonny Hayes, Funso-King Ojo, Lewis Ferguson, Scott Wright, Ryan Hedges, Niall McGinn, Marley Watkins.
Subs: Tommie Hoban (for Taylor 46), Shay Logan (for McGinn 46), Ryan Edmondson (for Ojo 46), Connor McLennan (for Wright 66).
Subs not used: Tomas Cerny, Ronald Hernandez, Dean Campbell, Bruce Anderson, Dylan McGeouch,
MOTHERWELL: Carson, O’Donnell, Gallagher, Mugabi, Lamie, Campbell, Polworth, O’Hara, Watt, Long, Grimshaw.
Subs: White (for Long 70), Lang (for Watt 79), Maguire (for Polworth 83)
Subs not used: Morrison, Hylton, Crawford, McGinley, Hastie, Seedorf.
Referee: John Beaton