Forget Christmas, Derek McInnes must wish it was Kilmarnock every day as Aberdeen have now won all 12 matches against the Ayrshire side since he replaced Craig Brown as manager in March 2013.
If ever there was an ideal fixture to restore belief in a side being doubted in certain quarters after recent setbacks against Celtic and Rangers then this was it as the contest was virtually over as soon as Peter Pawlett put the home side ahead in 20 minutes.
Anthony O’Connor and Jonny Hayes before the break and Niall McGinn in the second half contributed the others, although Rory McKenzie’s late strike threatened to deny them third spot in the table.
Hayes fixed that with a solo goal five minutes from time as he slalomed his way through the Kilmarnock defence and rounded the goalkeeper before clipping home the shot that moves them above Hearts on goal difference.
Now wins at home to St Johnstone on Saturday and Motherwell next Tuesday will guarantee elevation back into second place regardless of the result at Ibrox where Ian Cathro takes his new charges to face Rangers this weekend.
Kilmarnock have now won just four of their 16 matches in the division this season, although astonishingly they remain in the top half of the table after this latest thrashing at Pittodrie. More significantly they are also just three points clear of bottom spot and look destined for what is becoming a perennial fight against relegation.
Pawlett’s goal marked his first start in over two months and ironically it came after a spell of promising play from the visitors on a surface made perfect for slick passing by the incessant rain that poured down from a couple of hours before kick-off.
Kilmarnock knocked the ball around impressively enough early on, particularly teenager Adam Frizzell who along with McKenzie and Souleymane Coulibaly went close to giving them the lead. Of course the problem is only Dundee have scored fewer goals in the Premiership this season than Lee Clark’s side and when those chances weren’t taken what happened next had an air of inevitability about it.
Graeme Shinniestrode forward to hit Aberdeen’s first shot on target in 20 minutes, only to see Pawlett apply a deflection that deceived Jamie MacDonald.
It was the player’s first goal since February and only an instinctive block by the Kilmarnock keeper denied him a swift second. Not that MacDonald had time to savour his response as O’Connor thumped in the rebound.
All semblance of coherence evaporated from Kilmarnock’s play and they conceded again in 36 minutes when Andrew Considine’s ball from the back saw Rooney deftly sweep a pass into the path of Hayes who sped clear before angling his finish into the far corner.
It should have been four by the interval as Considine and Hayes combined in another lightning attack to leave James Maddison in the perfect position to score only for MacDonald to produce a dazzling save.
The scoreline would have been even more emphatic without MacDonald’s contribution but McGinn finally found a way to increase the lead in 69 minutes after setting up the chance with an impressive dash forward.
Rooney saw his drive blocked but the Northern Ireland international seized on the loose ball and slammed his angled effort into the corner of the net from around about the penalty spot.
McKenzie threatened to spoil things somewhat for a rampant Aberdeen with a well-taken goal on the visitor’s only real chance of the second half when he guided a drive behind Joe Lewis with 13 minutes to go only for Hayes to round things off in style shortly afterwards.