Jamie McGrath hit a double as a 4-2 victory at Motherwell gave Aberdeen a much-needed morale boost ahead of the Viaplay Cup semi-finals.
McGrath scored in each half with Nicky Devlin and substitute Luis Lopes also on target as the Dons claimed their first win in five matches to send them to Hampden on a high when they face Hibernian on Saturday.
Motherwell conceded some sloppy goals and never troubled Aberdeen keeper Kelle Roos until substitute Theo Bair netted his first goal at Fir Park in the 79th minute.
Mika Biereth scored his third goal in three cinch Premiership appearances off the bench in stoppage time but the Steelmen have now taken just one point from six games.
Aberdeen manager Barry Robson had taken responsibility for Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Kilmarnock, admitting he should have made more than one change to his starting line-up. He made two at Fir Park as Dante Polvara and Leighton Clarkson came in.
Motherwell had Lennon Miller back from suspension while Conor Wilkinson made his first start since August.
Both sides had some decent spells of possession without threatening, until some hesitant defending gifted the visitors the lead in the 26th minute.
Dan Casey failed to get a decent connection on his header following Devlin’s cross and Paul McGinn was slow to react as McGrath got in behind to nod home at the far post.
The goal seemed to have a major and contrasting impact on each team. Aberdeen looked increasingly confident on the ball while Motherwell were struggling to string two passes together and the crowd started to get on their backs.
A slack pass from McGinn set up Polvara to shoot straight at Liam Kelly before the away team doubled their lead in the 44th minute.
McGrath’s pass put Bojan Miovski through and, although McGinn made a last-ditch tackle, Devlin was by far the quickest to follow up and slotted home.
Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell made two half-time changes, bringing on Biereth and Calum Butcher, who was making his first appearance since suffering a foot injury in May.
The start of the second half was delayed by about seven minutes by a technical issue with the VAR equipment.
The home fans soon lost their patience with referee Colin Steven as he booked four of their players in the space of eight minutes and waved away several appeals for Motherwell free-kicks – Biereth’s yellow card came for a show of dissent.
McGrath had a header saved before adding to his tally in the 68th minute after another goal-saving challenge fell for the Dons.
Casey this time slid in to nick the ball off Miovski’s feet and McGrath emerged with it as Kelly hesitated to pick up, before the Irishman found the net. The goalkeeper was booked for dissent as he claimed for an infringement.
Kelly was well beaten six minutes later when he came for Ryan Duncan’s corner as Lopes headed into the empty net.
Bair soon curled the ball home from 22 yards with Roos slow to get down at his near post.
The Canadian missed a decent chance from Biereth’s driven cross before the Dane slotted home following a cross.
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