Adam Rooney’s sixth goal of the season was enough to see off the challenge of a stubborn Partick Thistle and keep Aberdeen three points ahead of Rangers in the race for second.
Aberdeen may have failed to take a single point against Celtic since Brendan Rodgers took over as manager but inflicting a similar sort of suffering on Partick Thistle explains why they still seem certain to enter the New Year as the defending champions’ closest rivals.
After all, they round off 2017 with a visit from Hearts, while Rangers face the daunting prospect of a trip to Parkhead for an Old Firm derby, and a visit from Glasgow’s third best side was always likely to provide the Dons with a morale boosting win after a 25th successive league defeat in Glasgow’s east end on Saturday.
That makes it 35 points from an unbeaten run of 13 games against Alan Archibald’s struggling side, who finish the year with just a solitary away league win at Dens Park last March, making the weekend visit of Ross County all the more important.
At least this latest predictable setback against Aberdeen didn’t turn into the defensive nightmare of the previous two meetings, when they conceded ten goals in total and the number of injuries the Firhill club have to deal with at the moment certainly hasn’t helped.
Martin Woods, Chris Erskine and the talismanic striker Kris Doolan joined the long list of those unavailable for this game, making it nine out of contention in total and meaning Archibald could only name five substitutes.
By contrast McInnes had Ryan Christie, Shay Logan and Scott McKenna all available again after missing the trip to Celtic Park as they looked to replicate the form that blew Hibernian away in their previous home match.
In front of 14,830 at Pittodrie last night, they certainly started in a similar fashion by pinning their opponents back for long spells and attacking with pace and imagination, stretching the Partick Thistle defence with Greg Stewart in particular impressing in a free role.
The player on loan from Birmingham City was equally effective down the left flank or in a more central position, setting up a couple of half chances for Adam Rooney with crosses from the wing before going for goal with a 20-yard drive that Tomas Cerny held at the second attempt.
The Thistle backline survived by the skin of their teeth at times during that spell but equally they showed real determination to throw their bodies in the way of their opponents at times to earn the occasional respite.
When that did happen Thistle actually caused a few problems of their own on the counterattack with Conor Sammon using his experience at the sharp end with a shot that Joe Lewis was happy to hold before the experienced striker set Andy McCarthy up at the edge of the Aberdeen area on the half-hour mark.
The midfielder slid his shot wide of the far post, while a Blair Spittal free-kick shortly afterwards also came to nothing, but it was an indication of how the visitors started to look more comfortable and competitive the longer the half progressed.
It was a different story in the second half, though, as Aberdeen increased the tempo and intensity of their play. Partick Thistle’s defence survived a couple of scares before Rooney finally made the breakthrough just after the hour mark.
By then, Ryan Edwards had been crucial in keeping his side level as he made an impressive goal line clearance to deny Christie a certain goal after the midfielder had cleverly lobbed the advancing Cerny having been sent clear by Shay Logan’s delightful long ball.
Then the midfielder made an equally crucial backpost intervention as Mackay-Steven lurked ready to convert more good work by Stewart, who had opened up the opposition defence with a jinking run and cross on the right.
It was a route Christie ruthlessly exploited himself on 62 minutes, skipping beyond a couple of challenges before pulling the ball back from the byeline for Rooney to score at the near post and leave Partick Thistle just one point off the bottom again.
Things might have been worse for the visitors if Cerny had not produced a magnificent diving save to deny Stewart a goal that his overall play probably deserved but the goalkeeper in turn deserved his good fortune when Christie’s dipping free kick landed on the roof of the net near the end.
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan, Considine (Reynolds 87), O’Connor, McKenna, Shinnie, McLean, Christie, Stewart (Ball 87), Mackay-Steven (Wright 72), Rooney. Subs not used: Rogers, Arnason, Harvie, Ross.
PARTICK THISTLE: Cerny, Turnbull, Keown, Spittal, Lawless (Storey 57), Barton, Devine, McGinn, Sammon, Edwards, McCarthy (Nisbet 76). Subs not used: Scully, Nitransky, Wilson.
Referee: E Anderson