A gutsy display from the Dons took Rangers all the way to the very last kick of the ball in Glasgow but in the end it was not enough.
Selecting his first Aberdeen XI, Neil Warnock made two changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Celtic last Saturday. In came Leighton Clarkson and, for his 350th appearance for the Dons, Jonny Hayes, with Dante Polvara and Killian Phillips starting on the bench.
After Rangers beat Livingston 3-0 on Saturday, there were four changes to their side with Ryan Jack, Fabio Silva, Leon Balogun and Borna Barisic replaced by Ridvan Yilmaz, Tom Lawrence, Cyriel Dessers and Jon Souttar.
Rangers started brightly and some neat one touch football down their left allowed Cantwell to cross into the six-yard box after five minutes, Richard Jensen doing really well to cut it out.
The hosts were ahead on seven minutes, Matondo winning the ball on halfway to start a move and spraying the ball to McCausland on the right. He came inside and tried to bend a low shot into the far corner. Kelle Roos was down to it, but could only palm it back into the six-yard box where Matondo had a tap in.
Aberdeen were struggling to get much possession in the opening quarter of an hour, Rangers dominant, but the Dons had their first strike at goal on 19, McGrath getting a fierce shot on target, Butland parrying and then collecting the loose ball.
McGrath needed treatment on 25, taking a full blooded shot from Tavernier full in the face, this just ten minutes after he had clashed heads with Souttar.
Neat football from Rangers carved Aberdeen open on the half hour, Tavernier instigating the move and then being there to take the final shot, which he blazed over the bar under pressure from Jensen.
Matondo accelerated down the left flank and weaved his way into the box on 39 minutes, but with the goal seemingly at his mercy, Jensen came across to produce another vital block. From the corner, Lawrence ballooned a header over the bar from six yards out. It was Matondo again on 42, a snapshot from the edge of the box comfortably collected by Roos.
Dessers was next to try his luck, Souttar setting Yilmaz away. His cross was a deflected into Dessers path but he pulled his shot across the face of goal and wide.
Bojan Miovski however pulled the Dons level in the dying seconds of the half. Barron hooked the ball forward on the half turn from halfway and Miovski was away on the run. Under heavy pressure from Goldson, and with the ball refusing to come down, the Aberdeen number nine simply kept his composure and waited for Butland to commit himself before he gently lobbed the ball over him and into the net for 1-1. Another brilliant finish from the striker.
HALF-TIME: RANGERS 1 ABERDEEN 1
It was a brisk start to the second period from Aberdeen, Connor Barron’s 47th minute corner flicked dangerously on at the near post by Nicky Devlin, but the ball eventually drifted to safety.
Dessers responded at the other end three minutes later, working a one-two with Cantwell, but Stefan Gartenmann came across to cover. Tavernier then scooped the ball way over the bar from the edge of the box.
Roos was called on to make a double save after 54 minutes, punching away Matondo’s shot and then diving away to his right to push Dessers’ drive from the rebound to safety.
McGrath was in the wars again after 55 minutes, landing awkwardly after going up for a header and again requiring treatment. While that went on Matondo and Dessers were replaced by Cortes and Fabio Silva.
A quick break from Aberdeen caused trouble on 59, Gartenmann bringing the ball out before finding Clarkson, but his cross had just too much on it for Miovski at the back post.
Rangers won a string of corners around the hour, one of them coming after Devlin took a shot point blank in the family allowance, a blow that must have brought the tears to his eyes. It was constant pressure from the hosts at this point, but Aberdeen stood firm, Roos making a terrific save with an outstretched leg from Lawrence’s low 15 yarder that came through a sea of bodies on 66 minutes. Polvara then took over from Hayes after 69 minutes.
The Dons, growing in confidence, pressed well a minute later, creating an opportunity for Graeme Shinnie but he blazed his effort over the bar.
Rangers were ahead again on 72 though, Lawrence clubbing a shot at goal from 25 yards that Roos had to save at full stretch, but again the ball fell kindly for an onrushing Rangers man, Cantwell having the straightforward task of depositing the ball in the net from close range.
Lawrence was replaced by Sterling three minutes later. The Dons responded with the introduction of Duk and Phillips for McGrath and Clarkson after 76 minutes. Duk was booked on 82 after challenging for a high ball with Goldson. Diomande was brought on in place of Cantwell three minutes later.
Determination from Shinnie, Phillips and Duk dragged the Dons up the park in the 87th minute. Duk dragged his low cross just behind Miovski, the centre-forward trying to manufacture a backheel into the net but unable to get the requisite power on it.
Rangers were down to ten men in the 88th minute, Sterling producing a tackle on Jack MacKenzie, the referee having no hesitation in sending him off. There was a lengthy VAR check that required the referee to go to the monitor, Don Robertson sticking with his original decision. Aberdeen immediately introduced Shayden Morris for Barron in the 91st minute. A goalmouth scramble ensued from the free-kick, Butland making a fine save from Gartenmann to keep Aberdeen at bay.
Polvara was then booked for a tackle on Fabio Silva. The Rangers man then sprinted away down the left before dragging his shot across goal and wide.
Miovski was flattened on the edge of the box to the right of the D to win a free-kick in the eighth minute of added time. From 25 yards out Duk’s effort grazed the top corner, Butland flinging himself desperately across goal, Rangers breathing a sigh of relief as the ball was inches too high.
0 minutes added at end 1st half.
8 minutes added at 2nd half.