There was late heartache and a hammer blow to hopes of finishing third – but Stephen Glass and his Dons still made a statement of intent with 1-1 draw against Celtic at Pittodrie last night.
Glass showed signs that under his management, Aberdeen will take the game to the Glasgow big guns.
The 44-year-old is only a week into his Pittodrie career, but there are already some differences.
Crucially, Aberdeen didn’t seem so caught up in trying to stop what Celtic can do.
Previously, the tendency was to go man-for-man to stop the Hoops.
Under Glass this was more about what the Dons could bring to the party – especially in the first half.
There was controlled aggression, a press, intent in the attack and they were a team looking to win.
It was backs-to-the-wall for long spells in the second half, but the Dons were resolute in defence.
Aberdeen were forced to defend deep after the break for long spells as Celtic pushed forward.
They looked to have secured a vital win that would have been a real statement of intent by Glass and his squad.
But it wasn’t to be the case thanks to that hammer blow when the defence lost Leigh Griffiths at the back post.
Aberdeen now trail third-placed Hibernian by six points with only three games left – third seems to be gone.
Glass will learn a lot about his team from this, despite the disappointment of conceding three minutes into injury time.
They were seconds from a first win over Celtic since May 2018 and a first clean sheet against Celtic at Pittodrie since 2001.
Crucially, the Hoops should have been down to nine men, but referee Willie Collum got two red card calls wrong.
David Turnbull should have been dismissed for a petulant kick out at Dylan McGeouch but Collum shockingly showed a yellow.
Callum McGregor clearly hauled back Jonny Hayes as he raced in on goal on the break. As the last man, he had to be red carded, but wasn’t even booked.
No quarter given by Scott Brown
Pittodrie-bound Celtic captain Scott Brown started for the visitors against his future team-mates.
The 35-year-old midfielder will join Aberdeen in the summer on a two-year player-coach role, having rejected a new deal at Parkhead.
Interim Celtic manager John Kennedy had no doubts about any divided loyalties from Brown.
No quarter was given by either Brown or his team-mates. The Celtic skipper played in a deep-lying role in a diamond in front of the two centre-backs.
It was sink or swim for Calvin Ramsay – and he swam
Teenage right-back Calvin Ramsay was thrown in at the deep end when coming on for the injured Ross McCrorie early in the first half.
It was a case of sink or swim for the 17-year-old.
He swam – producing a strong performance with maturity way beyond his years.
Back-up keeper would be valuable permanent addition
Aberdeen are understood to be set to open up contract talks with keeper Gary Woods.
The loan deal for the Oldham Athletic keeper expires at the end of the campaign, as does his Latics contract.
He proved against Celtic he can be a strong No 2 to captain Joe Lewis.
Midfielder dynamo Lewis Ferguson is Scotland material
Lewis Ferguson underlined he is Scotland international material with a superb performance.
Not only did he score, only a string of saves from Scott Bain denied him at least a hat-trick.
He hit the post when he should have scored, but also pitched in with a superb goal-line clearance.