They made hard work of it but Aberdeen kept their Scottish Premiership title hopes alive by coming from behind to defeat Motherwell this evening.
Scott McDonald gave Motherwell a deserved lead after a poor first half display from the Dons but the Reds rallied and a quick-fire double within seven minutes of the restart handed them the upper hand.
An own goal from Motherwell goalkeeper George Long was followed by Adam Rooney’s 24th goal of the season as the Dons reduced Celtic’s lead at the top to three points.
The result, however, is another blow to Motherwell’s hopes of avoiding relegation with the Steelmen now one point above bottom side St Mirren having played a game more.
Jamie Langfield returned for his first appearance since October’s 3-0 defeat by Hamilton Accies with Scott Brown dropped to the bench after conceding four against Celtic earlier this month.
Derek McInnes made three changes from the team that lost at Parkhead with Ashton Taylor and David Goodwillie replacing the injured Jonny Hayes and Willo Flood, while new signing Andrew Driver had to be content with a place on the bench.
Motherwell stuck with the same team that drew 1-1 with Kilmarnock last weekend with former Celtic and Middlesbrough attacker Scott McDonald leading the line for Ian Baraclough’s men.
It was a cold, wet evening at Pittodrie – in stark contrast to the hot temperatures the Dons players enjoyed during last week’s training camp in Tenerife.
The return of Taylor alongside Mark Reynolds in defence saw Donervorn Daniels pushed further forward into a defensive midfield role, while Goodwillie was supported by the attacking triumvirate of Niall McGinn, Kenny McLean and Adam Rooney.
Having not featured this year, Langfield would have been pleased to get an early touch, comfortably gathering Lee Erwin’s curling effort.
Despite their lowly league position, Motherwell started the game in a positive manner, although they were almost made to pay when McLean played in Goodwillie but the Dons attacker took too long to pull the trigger.
McLean was next to try his luck but shot wildly over the crossbar from 12 yards out with his weaker right foot as the Dons attempted to up the ante.
Motherwell had settled nicely but their finishing in the final third was far from clinical in the opening exchanges with Erwin skewing a shot from a promising position horribly wide.
Erwin went closer just after the half hour mark but Langfield came to the rescue, smothering at the attacker’s feet before Marvin Johnson was denied a sight of goal by Taylor.
It was a disjointed display from the Dons and McInnes opted to make a change 10 minutes before the break, withdrawing the ineffective Daniels for Peter Pawlett in a bid to gain a foothold.
But the tactical change was to no avail as Well opened the scoring after 37 minutes when McDonald directed Erwin’s low drive beyond Langfield.
The home support were stunned into silence although the Dons almost restored parity before the break but Well stopper George Long showed great agility to prevent McLean heading home a McGinn cross.
A much improved performance was required after the break and the Dons emerged for the second half with a point to prove.
It took the Reds only five minutes to draw level with Taylor evading his marker Josh Law before heading McGinn’s corner goalwards and Motherwell stopper Long bundled the ball into his own net.
And two minutes later the Dons were in front when Rooney capitalised on a calamitous mix-up in the Motherwell defence between Louis Laing and Long, leaving the Dons forward the easiest of tasks to slot the ball into an unguarded net.
Motherwell were in a state of disarray and the Dons pushed for the third goal that would end the game as a contest with McGinn and Rooney both going close.
The visitors shuffled their pack as they searched for a way back into the match with John Sutton and Lionel Ainsworth introduced into the action.
But it was the Dons who ended the match on top as they held on for the victory that keeps the pressure on Ronny Deila’s Celtic.