Aberdeen slipped to fourth in the Premiership after losing 2-1 to Ross County at Pittodrie.
On the same day Europa League qualifying spot rivals Motherwell drew 0-0 at Hamilton, the 10-man Reds – 1-0 up when Dean Campbell was sent off – conceded in the dying embers to slip to defeat.
The home side began the day looking to build on the optimism created by a 3-1 win at Hamilton, battling 2-1 defeat at home to Celtic and near-unbelievable 4-3 Scottish Cup fifth-round replay win at Rugby Park on Wednesday.
The chance was there to turn rediscovered attacking verve on league strugglers County.
Derek McInnes had warned of fatigue after a topsy-turvy 120-minute shift and he made three changes to try and offset this – one enforced by injury.
Recently-preferred frontman Curtis Main and top-scorer Sam Cosgrove, who’d been on the bench for the previous three games, were both upfront, as they had been by the end of the win at Kilmarnock. Shay Logan was back in on the right of a four-man defence.
Youngster Dean Campbell paired Lewis Ferguson in central midfield.
Relegated to the bench were winger Matty Kennedy, who’d started every game since joining from St Johnstone last month, and middle-man Dylan McGeouch. Summer signing Craig Bryson was absent entirely, once more injured – this time with a groin strain.
It took until 10 minutes for the first effort on goal at windy Pittodrie to arrive, Don Cowie fizzing a low long-range effort by the left post.
Soon after Niall McGinn curled a free-kick over Ross Laidlaw’s goal from 25 yards.
On 18 minutes, Campbell was booked for blocking off Josh Mullin, before the Dons won the ball back and Cosgrove – fed by partner Main – pulled a shot across goal from 16 yards.
As the home side started to click into gear, Callum Morris was the second man in referee Gavin Duncan’s notebook, chopping down Cosgrove has he drove forward with the ball.
Aberdeen went in front on 28 minutes. After a McGinn-Campbell corner routine which saw the teenager swing the ball in left-footed and Liam Fontaine fail to deal with the delivery at the front post, Cosgrove nodded down to Main to finish from close range.
Just as Pittodrie was thinking “here we go”, Campbell was dismissed by the referee, earning a cheap second booking for not being far enough back at a County free-kick.
This meant goalscorer Main was forced to fill the void in the middle of the park by dropping back.
The high from the goal had faded, however, the Dons still had the next big opening, with Cosgrove stopped by the sliding Laidlaw at the edge of his box after a great run and through-ball from Connor McLennan. Main then ballooned a second bite at getting a shot away over from distance.
County equalised with two minutes of the half to play, Billy Mckay heading ex-Red Richard Foster’s cross beyond Joe Lewis.
After the break, the visitors would’ve been in front but for Joe Lewis, with the keeper rushing out to close down Billy Mckay after Scott McKenna played a woeful blind back pass.
Lewis then denied Erwin with his foot on the follow-up.
Moments later, Lewis Ferguson’s raking effort from 20 yards hit the Staggies’ left post and Laidlaw done very well to tip away McGinn’s attempt to find the far top corner on the rebound.
There followed a period where both sides struggled to create much of note in the final third.
The Staggies undoubtedly had the better opportunities of the second period, however.
And, with less than 10 minutes left, Lewis made a fantastic save after Mullin’s effort from the edge of the box was deflected towards the top left corner of the Aberdeen goal.
On 89 minutes, the visitors got their winner. Mckay firing low from the left side of the box into the far corner after an incisive ball through the middle of McKenna and Taylor.