For Ange Postecoglou’s Parkhead side, an 84th minute Jota winner - just as they looked like seriously fracturing once more, in truth - allowed them to break through both mental, and tangible, barriers. Not only did it allow them to register a first Premiership away win in four attempts under the Australian; and only a second victory on the road in seven outings for him, it was the club’s first league success outside their own environs since February.
The punishment inflicted on Stephen Glass’s men felt harsh following their spirited second-half push. None of which changes the fact that, in now extending their winless sequence to nine games, Glass’s can’t look up for fear of what could be coming down upon him.
It must be said, though, that the Aberdeen support did not come down hard on their side as the Celtic travelling support found their voice to serenade their side. Customising a hymn - as is their wont - to belt out with mocking self-awareness “this is the day that we win away”, the post-match scenes, sing-a-long inspired, led Postecoglou to pumping fist towards them in acknowledgement. It instantly recalled the birth of the ‘Ronnie roar’ at the same ground under former Celtic manager Ronny Deila in November 2014. So too does the flawed nature of the Glasgow club in the here and now.
The Celtic manager chose to focus on the character shown by his team in fashioning a winner as they threatened to creak under a barrage of cross balls. And, indeed, without convincing, it does suggest progress that they could survive a pressurised situation. They did so with substitute Tom Rogic - introduced in the 72nd minute - proving creator in producing a piroutte before sending Adam Montgomery free down the left. Aberdeen parted like the red sea, the teenager delivered low for Jota to tap in from close range.
The deflation felt in home ranks was understandable. Joe Hart, and his goal had lived dangerously for stretches of a second period in which Glass’s men took control despite having to replace Scott Brown midway through - the former Celtic captain showing his class in his quarter-back tone setting even as his team struggled in his first outing against the club departed in the summer following 14 glittering years.
It seemed incongruous to see him celebrating a goal against Celtic, but his commitment to the Aberdeen cause was never going to be in any question. The 56th minute equaliser, meanwhile, raised further questions as to Celtic’s ability to defend set-pieces, with a Calvin Ramsay corner looping into the net off the shoulder of Lewis Ferguson.
The impoverished form of the pair was evident in their goal concessions across the early kick-off, and also in concentrated, but significant, modifications the two managers made to their team line-ups. Postecoglou’s decision to select Nir Bitton as his midfielder holder - providing the Israeli with a first Celtic start in two months - and deploy Callum McGregor in a slightly more advanced role seemed to belatedly recognise an issue. The pep has been squeezed out of his double-playmaker axis of Rogic and Turnbull, their influence having waned as he has felt it necessary to rely on them constantly. Either one could have made way for Bitton, and at Pittodrie it proved to be Rogic, who was then able to provide a late, crucial, spark.
Glass found himself in a similar position in addressing the goalkeeping situation that has festered through Joe Lewis flapping on a number of occasions as Aberdeen have become a soft touch. His manager didn’t shirk the hard call it demanded by dropping Lewis; an indignity he had never faced previously across five years at the club. His replacement, Gary Woods, hadn’t featured since May, but any notion that his presence could help end a run of 11 games without a clean sheet evaporated within 11 minutes.
It was all too simple for Celtic. A Turnbull throw-in down the right played back to him by Liel Abada, allowing the attacker to whip over a cross that Kyogo Furuhashi chested into the net from close in for an eighth goal in 10 appearances. Aberdeen’s centre-backs were posted missing once more and other home players joned them across a passive early spell.
Celtic then appeared as if they could pick them off for a staightforward victory. It is to the home side’s credit that they did not allow that to happen by fighting their way in; Hart, in odd fashion, lucky to see his claw at a bouncing Christian Ramirez effort skiff the bar as the interval approached.
Scorelines cloud all judgements, and so it will prove with Celtic taking the spoils and Aberdeen appearing a still despoiled project as a consequence of how the encounter eventually played out. But, with international break no doubt welcomed by both as the chance to regroup and refocus, the pair will accept deep-down that the road ahead for both still appears to be stretching out. All the more so for Aberdeen, of course, for while Celtic are at least positioned in the top six in the cinch Premeirship table, they have now slipped to ninth. New dawns, and new Dons, are not yet close to becoming realities.
Aberdeen: Woods; Ramsay, Bates, McCrorie, McKenzie; Brown (McGeouch 72); Ferguson, Longstaff (Campbell ; Samuels (McLennan 78), Ramirez, Hayes. Subs: Lewis, Gallagher, Emmanuel-Thomas, McGeouch, McLennan, Gurr, Campbell.
Celtic: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Montgomery; Bitton (Rogic 72); Turnbull, McGregor; Abada (Ajeti 72), Furuhashi, Jota. Subs: Bain, Scales, Giakoumakis, McCarthy, Welsh.