Returning to action after the international break, Derek McInnes made just one change to the starting XI who beat St Mirren at Pittodrie, Connor McLennan starting in place of Niall McGinn, who dropped to the bench. Gary Woods came into the matchday squad for the first time, on the bench in place of the injured Tomas Cerny. Also on the bench were youngsters Calvin Ramsay and Kieran Ngwenya, replacing Bruce Anderson and Jack MacKenzie who have both now gone out on loan.
Last time out on Tuesday night, Dundee United beat Kelty Hearts 1-0 in the League Cup. Manager Mickey Mellon made two changes to that side, Lawrence Shankland returning from international duty to replace Louis Appere and Benjamin Siegrist back in goal instead of Deniz Mehmet, Mehmet and Appere dropping to the bench.
The first action came with Lewis Ferguson getting brief attention to an injury above the eye in the opening minute after a clash with Pawlett. A minute later, Jonny Hayes ran onto the ball fully 25 yards out and lashed in a ferocious shot, Siegrist getting down to his right to push it away as the ball swerved away from him on its way through.
In the eighth minute, Ryan Hedges and Scott Wright combined nicely through the middle, Hedges' final ball to Wright just a shade too far in front of him, Siegrist able to get out quickly to smother and take the sting out of the shot, Connolly tidying up to clear the ball behind. From Hedges' resultant corner, Tommie Hoban was up highest, putting his header just wide of goal when again, perhaps he should have scored.
Fourteen minutes in and Siegrist was required to make another good save, this time to his left from Hedges' shot from distance, the chance initially created by Ross McCrorie's energetic pressing of the United defence. The game was taking a similar shape to the one at Dingwall three weeks previously, the Dons completely on top but needing that crucial first goal.
They weren't far away in the 29th minute, Hedges' near post corner scrambled away by Shankland, clearly off his hand, referee Muir somehow missing what was a stonewall penalty.
The opener should have come in the 32nd minute, Wright doing well to snaffle the ball from Connolly on the edge of the box before feeding Hayes. His shot across the face of goal was neither one thing nor the other, too wide to find the goal but too much on it for Hedges to be able to nudge it in at the far post.
Another fine save from Siegrist kept Wright out in the 43rd minute as Aberdeen broke from a corner. McLennan's cross found Wright at the back post a dozen yards out, but the goalkeeper was equal to his effort at goal. Somehow, United had made it to the break unscathed.
HALF-TIME: DUNDEE UNITED 0 ABERDEEN 0
Aberdeen picked up from where they left off and were back on the front foot from the first whistle in the second half, pretty much penning the hosts inside their own penalty area, but still trying to find that telling final ball to finally open them up.
Ten minutes in, Wright needed some treatment after a coming together with Connolly, United taking the opportunity to replace Clark with debutant McNulty. The Dons continued to get themselves into some great attacking positions only to be wasteful with the ball. Andrew Considine found the best cross of the half so far on the hour, curling into the six yard box, only for Reynolds to produce a brilliant clearance. Ryan Edmondson replaced Wright moments later, Reynolds making way for Liam Smith at the same time, United going to a back four. Butcher then went in the book for going through the back of Hedges.
The Dons were threatening in the 72nd minute, Ferguson hacked down late by Pawlett on the edge of the box. While Pawlett was getting treatment after the foul, McGinn came on for McLennan. The Northern Irishman stepped up to take the kick, putting the ball over the wall, Siegrist hurling himself to his left to claw the ball away.
McCrorie picked up a yellow card for a foul on Harkes before United made a double change in the 78th minute, Pawlett and Butcher off for Powers and Chalmers. Two minutes later, a fine cross from Hedges almost had Hayes in, more brilliant defending in the six yard box from Smith to clear in front of him. United broke from the resulting corner, Chalmers clean through and set to score, only for Joe Lewis to produce a magnificent save with his feet.
Hayes found himself in the book for a late tackle as United tried to break on the counter-attack again but in the final minute of normal time, a McCrorie back header from a flighted McGinn free-kick in drifted inches wide of the far post with Siegrist, for once, looking beaten.
Next, a long throw from Ash Taylor found McGinn and his header through a crowd of players almost caught Siegrist out, the goalkeeper catching at the second attempt, the big United shot stopper once again keeping his side in a game they should have lost decisively.