Adam Rooney and Kenny McLean both hit braces as Aberdeen secured a 4-2 win over Ross County in Dingwall.
Three goals in seven first-half minutes from a slick Aberdeen outfit flattened County, with McLean and two strikes from Rooney emphasising their dominance.
More humiliation was to come for the hosts as Scott Fox’s error gifted McLean his second and the Dons’ fourth with 25 minutes to go.
A late double from Alex Schalk gave the scoreline a less lop-sided look but the damage had already been done.
The three points put Derek McInnes’ side back into second place while County remain six points adrift of Partick Thistle at the foot of the table, having played a game more.
The Dons made two changes from the side that beat Kilmarnock 3-1 on Saturday, with Ryan Christie and Kari Arnason in for Dominic Ball and Anthony O’Connor. Prospective goalkeeping addition Freddie Woodman was on the bench for Newcastle United in their game with Burnley, before finalising a loan switch to Pittodrie.
The addition of Sam Cosgrove on a two-and-a-half year contract was also announced 45 minutes prior to kick-off, with the striker joining after making 12 appearances for English League Two side Carlisle United this season.
Owen Coyle made five changes for the Staggies, handing a debut to new signing Liam Fontaine – who joined from Hibernian earlier in the day – in place of Kenny van der Weg. The other switches saw Aaron McCarey, Chris Routis, Jim O’Brien and Michael Gardyne come out, with Fox, Tim Chow, Chris Eagles and Inih Effiong starting. Loan signing Max Melbourne was on the bench.
A Ross County side shorn of confidence, without a win in their last 11 league games, desperately needed a positive start. Two opportunities in the first 10 minutes gave them some hope, with an Eagles shot worrying Danny Rogers at his far post and the Dons stopper getting a strong arm on Harry Souttar’s downward header.
It took 14 minutes for the Dons to carve open the Staggies, with Gary Mackay-Steven nutmegging Jason Naismith on the edge of the box and freeing Andrew Considine, whose cutback deserved better than the air-shot it got from Niall McGinn.
McLean gave the visitors the lead on 27 minutes and County will feel hard-done by. Ross Draper felt he was fouled in the build-up that allowed McGinn to break forward, before Christie teed up the Norwich-bound midfielder to strike. The ball deflected off Fontaine and wrong-footed Fox, who attempted to claw it away but only succeeded in pushing it into the top corner.
The lead was doubled four minutes later from the penalty spot, with Rooney dispatching comfortably when Chow clipped Christie in the box. A quick-fire third on 34 minutes put the Dons out of sight, with McGinn’s left-wing cross turned home first time by Rooney.
Aberdeen’s trio of Christie, McGinn and Mackay-Steven were a joy to watch, as Coyle’s side were helpless in nullifying their pace and movement.
Just when County’s punishment looked complete, Fox had a nightmare moment reminiscent of the goal Alfredo Morelos scored against him for Rangers in August. The Staggies goalkeeper took a slack touch and McLean dispossessed him, sliding the ball into an unguarded net.
The disgruntled home supporters had to wait until the 76th minute to have something to shout about, with Schalk lifting the ball over Rogers to score, and the Dutchman found the net again six minutes later to give hope of a unlikely recovery.
But it was too little, too late as Aberdeen thoroughly merited the three points.