Following Wednesday night's epic Scottish Cup tie at Kilmarnock, Derek McInnes made three changes to the Aberdeen team to face Ross County. Into the starting XI came the three subs who came on at half-time at Rugby Park, Sam Cosgrove, Shay Logan and Dean Campbell replacing Craig Bryson, Matty Kennedy and Dylan McGeouch, the latter two starting from the bench.
Ross County had late drama of their own in their last game, snatching an injury time 1-1 draw at home to St Johnstone in the league last Saturday. They too made three changes from that game, Liam Fontaine, Lee Erwin and Harrison Paton coming in for Coll Donaldson, Ross Draper and Oliver Shaw.
The game began in bright sunshine, but accompanied by the now seemingly obligatory howling wind, barrelling through Pittodrie like a runaway train. An early free-kick saw the Dons create the first bit of pressure, Curtis Main heading wide in the third minute in an otherwise quiet opening to the game as the sides tried to get the measure of the difficult conditions.
Another free-kick came the hosts' way in the 13th minute, 30 yards out and dead central. Up stepped Niall McGinn, whipping it over the wall but a foot or so over the bar.
Campbell was in the book in the 18th minute for stepping across Mullin as Ross tried to get away on the break, still well inside their half. Moments later the Dons found the best move of the game so far, Connor McLennan, Lewis Ferguson, Main and Cosgrove all involved in some sharp passes before Cosgrove dragged his effort across the face of goal and wide.
Sam was on his way goalwards again in the 20th minute, Morris hacking him down and earning a card. McGinn stepped up to the free-kick again, this time drifting the ball round the wall but not getting enough curl on it to bring it back on target. The game's first corner went Ross' way in the 25th minute, Mullin's delivery cleared comfortably enough at the near post by Ferguson.
The Dons won their first corner in the 27th minute, a nicely shaped ball from Andrew Considine feeding Main, Fraser across well to clear. A short corner from McGinn allowed Campbell to make the delivery into the box. Morris skied his attempted clearance in the centre of the six-yard area, Cosgrove was up highest to win the knockdown and at the back post, Main was there to force the ball home for 1-0.
Disaster for the Dons followed in the 31st minute.
Vigurs played a free-kick quickly at Campbell just a couple of yards away, Dean instinctively throwing out a leg to block. A nothing incident, deliberately manufactured by the County man, but the referee without any thought quickly administered a second yellow card. In Campbell's defence, the fouls involved in getting the two yellow cards barely added up to one between them.
Still the Dons attacked and a quick break in the 36th minute saw McLennan bring the ball forward and slip a neat pass through the defence for Cosgrove to run onto. Laidlaw did superbly well to dart off his line and save at Cosgrove's feet, inches before he could get onto the ball, the rebound squirting to the oncoming Main, who fired over from 30 yards.
Great persistence from McGinn won the Dons a 41st minute corner, his cross then reaching Ash Taylor who headed it down from a central position, the ball bouncing up and drifting just wide.
From nowhere though, County were level in the 43rd minute, their first real effort of the game. Foster slung the ball in from their left, McKay rising well to power his free header back across goal, curling around Lewis and just inside the post, a poor goal to concede.
HALF-TIME: ABERDEEN 1 ROSS COUNTY 1
The Dons almost created a chance in the 48th minute, a lovely reverse pass from Ferguson setting McGinn away but his cross was just too high for Cosgrove.
Scott McKenna got away with one in the 53rd minute, a blind back pass putting McKay clean through on goal. Lewis saved brilliantly with an extended leg, then did likewise with the rebound from Erwin, a real let off for the home side.
The Dons responded instantly, Ferguson smashing a shot against the post from the edge of the area, McGinn collecting the rebound and trying to curl an effort into the far corner, goalkeeper Laidlaw getting a touch on both efforts, two terrific saves to equal those of Lewis at the other end.
Taylor took a sore one from a lunging Paton in the 55th minute, a great clearance but a poor challenge, far more dangerous than anything that earned Campbell a card, yet the Ross man went unpunished.
Aberdeen made the first change in the 59th minute, Kennedy on to replace McLennan, Ross immediately getting a free-kick on the edge of the Aberdeen area, for reasons known only to the referee, Taylor up well to clear. Spittal was Ross' first change in place of Paton in the 71st minute as the game went through something of a lull. He was quickly into the action, leading a break down the right for Ross before shanking his cross into the crowd.
Ryan Hedges joined the battle in the 76th minute, replacing McGinn as the Dons looked for some fresh legs to disrupt things in the last quarter of an hour, Wednesday's exertions and the impact of being down to ten men for so long on this afternoon starting to tell.
Lewis had to produce another wonderful save in the 81st minute, Mullin's snapshot from 20 yards taking a thick deflection, the skipper somehow able to claw the ball away from the top corner. Erwin then made way for Shaw for the visitors, McGeouch becoming Aberdeen's final change a minute later in place of Cosgrove.
A quick break from Ross threatened to pinch the game in the 85th minute but last man Taylor produced a terrific clearance to avert the danger as Aberdeen continued to stay positive in the search for a winner.
It was Ross who stole it though in the 88th minute, Cowie's ball over the top picking out McKay to run in behind and bludgeon a shot across goal and into the far corner. It was his last act, replaced immediately by Draper as Ross successfully ran down the clock to collect the three points.