Motherwell overcame the midweek virus that ran through the club to floor Aberdeen with a second-half fightback and a 2-1 win that deals a severe blow to the Dons’ hopes of catching Celtic.
A penalty from Kenny McLean just before half-time put the visitors ahead, as they targeted victory away from Pittodrie in a game Motherwell almost asked to be postponed due to a host of players suffering sickness in midweek.
However, goals from Scott McDonald and Louis Moult and a red card for Aberdeen’s Barry Robson inside a frantic six minutes late in the second half meant Motherwell collected a fifth win in six games and rose to fifth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Determined to keep on leaders Celtic’s tail, Derek McInnes’ Dons pressed from the start.
After only eight minutes Shay Logan’s cross was knocked out to the edge of the area where Ryan Jack fired a low drive through the packed box and force a good diving save from Connor Ripley.
Minutes later and with the home goal under pressure Simon Church found time to swivel in front of goal only to fire his shot wide of the post.
Dons goalkeeper Scott Brown was relieved in Motherwell’s first attack as Louis Moult’s cross picked out Marvin Johnson whose volley curled over the bar.
Motherwell went closer again after 29 minutes when the width of post denied them a great opening goal. Law’s free-kick found Moult at the corner of the penalty area, but after a slick one-two with Scott McDonald, Motherwell’s leading scorer’s powerful drive cannoned back off Brown’s right-hand post.
Aberdeen might have made the most of that let-off five minutes later when McLean earned himself a free-kick 20 yards out in front of the home goal, only to waste the opportunity by firing the ball high over the bar.
Aberdeen opened the scoring from the penalty spot in controversial circumstances a minute before the break. Johnson was flattened by Andrew Considine in front of the dugouts and as play raced towards the home box Jonny Hayes was tripped from behind by Kieran Kennedy. There was no questioning the award or McLean’s confidence as he slammed the spot-kick past Ripley to put the Dons ahead.
As Motherwell manager Mark McGhee remonstrated with the fourth official, Aberdeen were denied a second goal when Ripley made a fabulous save to block Niall McGinn’s thumping close-range volley.
With Aberdeen content to hold their lead and Motherwell unable to open them up, there was little goalmouth action early in the second half.
The Dons twice went close to extending their lead in the 67th minute.
Firstly McLean’s sweet left-footed drive was rising into the corner of the net until Ripley leapt high to push the ball behind. Then from Hayes’ corner Church watched his overhead effort bounce off the crossbar.
Aberdeen looked comfortable until the six-minute spell that turned the game.
In the 73rd minute a cross from Lionel Ainsworth was returned into the six-yard box by Johnson, and as the ball bounced around the danger area McDonald cutely nodded it over Brown and under the bar to level the match.
If that shocked the Dons, the visitors were stunned two minutes later when Moult chased Johnson’s ball into the box and got between Reynolds and his advancing goalkeeper to delicately lob his finish into the empty net.
Worse was to follow for the Dons when substitute Robson, on the field for only two minutes, was shown a straight red for an elbow on Moult.
In an exciting finish Ripley saved from Hayes before home substitute Wes Fletcher allowed Brown to save his shot from six yards.