Aberdeen provided some much-needed festive cheer by closing the gap on Rangers to four points with a well-earned 3-1 victory against Motherwell.
The sides served up an utterly bonkers first 45 minutes which contained two missed penalties, a goal of the season contender and no shortage of talking points.
Strikes from Graeme Shinnie and Adam Rooney put the Dons ahead at the break with Scott McDonald having netted a stunning overhead kick equaliser for the hosts.
The woodwork was tested at both ends after the break with Motherwell forward Louis Moult and Aberdeen’s Andrew Considine denied by the crossbar before Niall McGinn made sure of the points in the final minute.
This was the second meeting between the teams in the space of 10 days, although floodlight failure meant the Pittodrie fixture was abandoned after only seven minutes of action.
There were serious fears that lightning would strike twice with the torrential rain and gale-force winds brought on by Storm Barbara putting last night’s match in doubt – but, thankfully for the Aberdeen supporters who had made the long trek to Motherwell, the Fir Park surface passed an afternoon pitch inspection.
The Dons, with only three times in their previous nine games, made four alterations from the team that started Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Ross County. Out went Anthony O’Connor, Jayden Stockley, Wes Burns and James Maddison with Ash Taylor, Mark Reynolds, Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn handed starting berths.
Aberdeen have toiled in recent weeks but it took them only six minutes to break the deadlock.
A dreadful pass from Well goalkeeper Craig Samson allowed Jonny Hayes to charge down Ben Heneghan’s attempted clearance. The loose ball fell kindly for Kenny McLean who released Hayes and the Irish midfielder displayed great awareness to roll the ball into the path of Shinnie to slam the ball home from just inside the penalty area.
A perfect start for the Dons was almost undone moments later when the usually reliable Joe Lewis flapped at a cross but Rooney was perfectly placed to clear the ball off the line.
But Motherwell got back on level terms with a goal of the season contender in the 16th minute when former Celtic attacker McDonald’s overhead kick from a Richard Tait cross sailed over Lewis and kissed the crossbar on its way into the net.
It was an outrageous piece of skill but Aberdeen regained the initiative within nine minutes and again they received a helping hand from Samson.
The Motherwell goalkeeper spilled a low drive from McLean with Rooney, quickest to react to the situation, going down under a challenge from the stopper with referee Madden pointing to the spot.
The hosts were incensed and felt the Dons forward had gone to ground too easily.
Rooney assumed the spot-kick duties and, although Samson guessed correctly to save his side-footed attempt, the Dons attacker smashed the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Pulsating stuff and there was further controversy just before the break.
This time it was at the other end with Madden awarding a second penalty when Keith Lasley fell to ground following a careless challenge from Reynolds.
But Lewis made a tremendous save to keep out Moult’s spot-kick with the ball eventually cleared after a frantic goal-mouth scramble.
An unmarked Ash Taylor passed up a glorious chance before the interval when he headed wide in the final action of a mesmerising first period.
The action continued after the break with a dipping Moult free kick well held by Dons stopper Lewis as play continued to race from end to end.
Aberdeen, however, remained the game’s dominant force with captain Ryan Jack, Shinnie and McLean bossing possession in the middle third.
Andrew Considine should have taken the Dons a step closer to making sure of the points in the 64th minute but the defender nodded a tantalising McGinn free kick over the bar from close range.
There was a let-off for the Dons soon after when a Moult header from a Tait free kick reverberated off the crossbar.
The woodwork was rattling at the other end when Considine went even closer to getting on the scoresheet from an in-swinging McGinn corner.
Shay Logan and Rooney went close to netting a third for the Dons but it mattered not as the visitors finally put the game to bed in the final minute.
Hayes went on a rampaging run down the left flank before crossing for McGinn to net with a sweetly struck left-footed effort.