Lewis Ferguson’s dramatic added-time penalty gave Aberdeen a share of the spoils against Celtic in a pulsating 3-3 Premiership draw at Pittodrie, before Rangers stretched their lead to six points with victory over Livingston.
Dons midfielder Ferguson started the scoring from the spot two minutes before the interval but the champions roared back after the break and stand-in skipper Callum McGregor levelled in the 52nd minute.
Ryan Hedges restored Aberdeen’s lead in the 64th minute but Hoops substitute Leigh Griffiths equalised with a drive in the 75th minute and Ryan Christie scored with a penalty two minutes later.
That looked like it would be enough to clinch the points but remarkably Aberdeen were awarded a second penalty in added time and Ferguson again did the business.
The two sides meet in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park next Sunday and that will be a game to look forward to if it in any way matches this one.
Neil Lennon had been forced into a change in goal due to an injury to his first choice Vasilis Barkas, with Scott Bain making his first start since August.
Aberdeen had to contend with a fiery Celtic start before the game developed into a competitive scrap. In the 17th minute Celtic midfielder Olivier Ntcham’s drive from 30 yards clipped the outside of the post.
The visitors were on top when Dylan McGeouch picked up an injury and was replaced by Connor McLennan and the pressure began to intensify although Aberdeen keeper Joe Lewis was well protected by his defence.
However, it was the Dons who forced their way ahead when referee Willie Collum pointed to the spot after Ntcham bundled Ferguson over in the box. Ferguson got up and sent Bain the wrong way with his spot-kick.
Celtic’s were quick to respond. McGregor combined with Rogic and took the return ball before driving low past Lewis from eight yards.
When Bain failed to deal with a drive from Sam Cosgrove, Hedges was on hand to prod the ball over the line from close range.
Celtic levelled again when Griffiths, who had come on for Ntcham, took a pass from Rogic and curled it high past Lewis. They were ahead for the first time two minutes later Dons defender Tommie Hoban caught Mohamed Elyounoussi in the box and Christie confidently drove in the penalty.
However, in added time, after McGregor tripped McLennan and Cosgrove had slammed the ball against the crossbar, Collum pointed to the spot and Ferguson stepped up with another well-taken penalty.
In the day’s other Premiership game, Jermain Defoe scored his 300th goal in club football as Rangers moved six points clear with a 2-0 victory over Livingston.
The 38-year-old produced a sublime finish to put Rangers two ahead in the 16th minute as Steven Gerrard’s side made the most of the opportunity presented by Aberdeen’s late equaliser. Defoe, whose first goal came for West Ham 20 years ago last month, shot first time with his left foot to net his first league goal of the season.
Joe Aribo had earlier put Rangers in front and the victory was further evidence of both the increased depth and focus of Rangers this season, as they followed up last weekend’s victory at Celtic Park with Aribo and Defoe among five changes from Thursday’s Europa League win at Standard Liège.
Ianis Hagi dispossessed Efe Ambrose and set up Defoe, whose shot was stopped by the goalkeeper’s legs. Hagi, however, showed good awareness to square to Aribo, who swept the ball into the empty net.
The second goal came from James Tavernier’s accurate ball over the top. Defoe got in between the visiting centre-backs and did not break stride as he met the ball as it dropped.