It wasn’t a result that many people saw coming – but Aberdeen’s demolition at the hands of Rangers might have added enough intrigue to keep the race for second place alive.
The late show from Pedro Caixinha’s men was enough to send Dons fans home scratching their heads as to how they had managed to seemingly throw away three points.
Aberdeen have been the second force in Scottish football during Rangers’ time away from the top flight, and another second place finish behind Celtic would have cemented that.
But Kenny Miller stated his claim for a new contract with a late double that has left Rangers fans thinking that they just might overhaul the Dons in the race for the ‘other than Celtic’ position at the top of the SPFL Premiership.
We look at how the teams might finish as the battle to be the best bar the Bhoys goes right down to the wire.
Why is it important?
In theory, there is no difference between finishing second in the Scottish Premiership and finishing third.
Both of the sides that finish in those positions go into the absurdly early first qualifying round of the Europa League (the UEFA Cup in old money).
In positional terms, however, until recent years the Scottish Cup winners went into the second qualifying round of the Europa League, meaning if Celtic won the cup, that cup winners place would revert to fourth in the Premiership and the second place team would be able to skip a round.
Thanks to Scotland’s recent poor performances in club and international football, all three of the Europa League entries in Scotland will enter at the first stage of the competition.
That aside, there is a greater share of the SPFL Premiership prize fund for finishing second, but there is so much more to the battle for that position than money.
Aberdeen and Rangers are massive rivals, as we have covered in these pages, and the fans of either side would love to get one over on the other.
There’s also the prestige of being the team that is best in the league bar Celtic, which might seem ignominious to fans of Rangers, but with Brendan Rodgers’ side looking so good, to even be within touching distance of them is something of an achievement.
While some of the more optimistic Rangers fans might have fancied their chances at challenging Celtic, that was always going to be a tall order in their first season in the SPFL Premiership.
Second place, now, is the minimum that fans can expect for their season to not be considered a failure, especially if their great rivals Celtic also knock them out of the Scottish Cup.
Pipping the Dons to that position could see Dave King get some fans of his back and give Pedro Caixinha a boost ahead of his first full season in charge at Ibrox.
Rangers halted the home form of Aberdeen yesterday with their 3-0 win, after Derk McIness had led his side to ten home wins in a row at Pittodrie.
Pedro Caixinha’s men can all but guarantee third place with a win this weekend if St Johnstone, who have put together a good run of form and are targeting an unlikely bid to overhaul Rangers and knocking them out of European competition entirely, drop points.
The Saints are six points behind Rangers, and will play them once more after the split with the Ibrox side also pursuing Aberdeen, St Johnstone’s weekend opponents, in second.
That goal is suddenly much more likely for Caixinha’s side, who are now nine points behind Aberdeen with six games left to play.
Considering one of those games is against Aberdeen at Ibrox, and with Rangers’ defensive record at home still solid (only Celtic have beaten them in Govan), fans will be cautiously optimistic of snatching second place.
Despite yesterday’s massive setback, however, a second place finish is still very much Aberdeen’s to lose.
They remain nine points clear, and would need to lose most of their fixtures after the split to allow Rangers an opening to snatch second spot.
With an Old Firm game still to go, Aberdeen will be looking for Celtic to do them a favour in order to maintain their unbeaten record against Rangers.
Aberdeen themselves have a poor record against the champions-elect, having lost four games to Brendan Rodgers’ side this season.
They are also feeling the pressure ahead of a cup semi-final next weekend against Hibs, who are looking for back-to-back Scottish Cup wins.
Aberdeen are the bookies’ favourite to come through that Hampden tie, but with that favouritism comes more pressure, as the Championship side arguably have nothing to lose.
They need to come through that match to set up a final with one of the Old Firm teams, and winning it could give them the boost they need to secure the second place finish.