Aberdeen are through to the second qualifying round of the Europa League but only just as they made hard work of seeing off the challenge of Macedonians KF Shkendija at Pittodrie.
A nervous and at times ragged display from the Dons would have been punished by a better team and manager Derek McInnes and his players were left grateful for their opponents’ lack of a finishing.
It was far from pretty and had the visitors made the most of their early chances then they would have headed home celebrating their first victory in a European tie.
But it is clear the Dons will have to play much better in Croatia against HNK Rijeka next week if they are to enjoy more than a lingering interest in the tournament.
Dons manager McInnes made one enforced change to the side which drew 1-1 in Skopje a week ago with defender Mark Reynolds missing out due to the dislocated shoulder he suffered in the game. Midfielder Kenny McLean returned in his absence with Graeme Shinnie reverting to a left back role. Andrew Considine moved to central defence alongside Ash Taylor.
FK Shkendija head coach Shpetim Duro also made one change to his side as attacker Borjan Vrucina dropped to the bench with Besart Ibraimi, who came on at half-time last week, taking his place. Hristijan Kirovski, who scored the equaliser for the Macedonians, was again named on the bench.
The visitors, backed by a 13 strong away support, arrived at Pittodrie needing to score to progress and Ibraimi was a man on the mission to get it in the opening exchanges with some fine touches and no shortage of pace down the flank.
One fine run took him past Shay Logan and Armed Alimi should have done better with the cross but he failed to connect properly from 12 yards and his shot trundled harmlessly past Danny Ward’s left post.
This was a side with nothing to lose and it showed as they went toe to toe with the Dons who seemed tense and nervous despite having the advantage of an away goal.
The midfield especially was a problem area for Aberdeen with birthday boy Jonny Hayes and Ryan Jack wasteful with both their possession and passing against a team which appeared capable of punishing them at any moment.
The watching Dons manager, who believed his side had been too open in the second half of the first leg a week ago, must have been aghast at seeing the same problem resurface in front of the home supporters who were increasingly restless as the minutes ticked by.
It was all too hurried and lacking in composure at times with attacker Adam Rooney reduced to the role of spectator in the final third.
It took until three minutes before the break for the Dons to find their way through a resolute backline with Marko Jovanovski spilling a long range Niall McGinn effort before Hayes played in Shinnie, only for the goalkeeper to redeem his earlier fumble by turning his well driven shot past the post.
The two chances brought some much needed urgency to the home side’s play before the interval but the visitors reached the break with the match still goalless.
Hayes went close again within minutes of the restart and the sustained period of pressure from the Dons resulted in the visitors conceding fouls around the penalty area as the home side pushed for an opener to settle their nerves.
But an ambitious 35 yard free kick from Alimi, which was parried unconvincingly by Danny Ward quickly brought the hesitant edge to proceedings back into play and with no sign of a breakthrough McInnes sent on Peter Pawlett for McLean in the hope he could provide some inspiration.
He almost did in spectacular fashion with a spectacular 30 yard dipping shot which Jovanovski appeared to tip on to the crossbar but it was the closest the Dons came to scoring.
In the end it was the visitors who were left wondering what might have been as substitute Kirovski sprung the offside trap only to drag his shot wide of Ward’s goal.