As today is the first time that a play-off for relegation promotion has taken place in Scottish football, there can be no direct comparison with any other game in club history. However the Dons' final League game of the 1975-76 season was to all intents and purposes a relegation play-off jn Aberdeen's eyes. The game against Hibs took place on April 24th, 1976. The Dons simply had to win and they knew that their superior goal difference would at least see off Dundee if not United in the battle against the drop. St Johnstone had already been relegated. Eddie Thomson was sidelined with an ankle knock while Arthur Graham was ruled out by a back injury that had kept him out for the previous three weeks, which meant a continued run for Willie Garner alongside Willie Miller and a debut in the starting line-up for young striker Walker McCall.
The Dons looked fairly composed in an atmospheric opening quarter of an hour with only the midfield showing the real tension lying just under the surface with a series of over hit passes.
Neither side could claim the upper hand at that stage. With 17 minutes gone there were gasps around the stadium as Bobby Clark and Willie Garner looked for the other to intercept a Duncan cross from the left, both left it but thankfully Hibs right winger Murray hurried his shot and pushed his harmless effort tamely wide of the target. Four minutes later Pittodrie erupted. Walker McCall won a jump off for the ball in the Hibs box but the visitors right back Bobby Smith clearly handled the big fellow's header and referee Bill Anderson pointed to the spot. Dave Robb came forward to take the crucial award but tragically goalkeeper Mike MacDonald guessed correctly and diving to his right brought off a heartbreaking save in front of the Beach End.
The Dons could have crumbled after spurning their penalty lifeline but if anything, they picked up the tempo after poor Dave Robb's miss, with the live wire midfield man obviously keen to make up for his lapse. Just on the half hour mark an Aberdeen spell of pressure forced Hibs to concede a free-kick. Chic McLelland pumped the ball into the box, Walker McCall again outjumped the visitors defence and Drew Jarvie forced the youngster's knock back into the net to put the Dons 1-0 ahead.
With the 11,000 crowd roaring them on, Aberdeen went all out for a killer second goal. Four minutes after taking the lead the Dons opened up Hibs with a superb move that ended with a goal bound flashing header from Drew Jarvie but Mike MacDonald brought off another fine save to keep the visitors in it. Just before half time Hibs enjoyed a little purple patch of their own and Bobby-Clark had to be on his toes to halt efforts from Pat Stanton and Bobby Smith.
In the opening moments of the second half Willie Miller made a timely tackle to prevent Hibs sub Willie Paterson getting in a shot with his first touch of the ball as the Dons began the period a litde tentatively. On the hour the Dons were reminded of the slender nature of their advantage when an Ally McLeod shot took a deflection off a home defender before squirting behind off a post on its way behind the goal for a corner kick.
Then with 67 minutes on the clock came the moment that lifted the fear of relegation from the Dons. Chic McLelland sent in a hopeful cross and Joe Smith unleashed an incredible 20 yard volley to make it 2-0. With the fans still in raptures over Smith's stunning strike Dave Robb stole in behind the right flank of the Hibs defence and squeezed home an amazing 3rd goal from a seemingly impossible angle.
As it turned out anything less than a win would have resulted in relegation for the Dons but their superior goal difference won the dav, keeping Aberdeen above Dundee United while poor Dundee were the unlucky side that joined St Johnstone in the 1st Division.