Bojan Miovski’s sensational late winner earned 10-man Aberdeen a 1-0 Viaplay Cup semi-final victory over Hibernian at Hampden Park.
The Easter Road side edged a scrappy first half and were denied an opener in the 49th minute when VAR ruled attacker Martin Boyle was offside before he had the ball in the Dons net.
Aberdeen defender Jack MacKenzie was sent off by referee John Beaton in the 75th minute for picking up a second yellow card for a silly push on Hibs defender Lewis Miller but just as it looked like the tide was turning towards Leith, Miovski broke clear three minutes later to drive in his 10th goal of the season, leaving Hibs kicking themselves.
The Granite City men will take on Rangers or Hearts, who play in Sunday’s other semi-final at the national stadium, in the December 17 final, and after riding their luck against Hibs, they may feel their name could be on the trophy.
Neither Aberdeen nor Hibs were in sparkling form going into the game.
Under Nick Montgomery, who was appointed Hibees boss in September, the Leith outfit were five matches without a win, albeit four were drawn, while Aberdeen’s midweek victory at Motherwell was their first in five matches.
Dons boss Barry Robson, part of the Pittodrie side who won the competition in 2014, brought in midfielder Connor Barron, with Dante Polvara dropping to the bench.
Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall replaced Jojo Wollacott, with left-back Jordan Obita, midfielder Joe Newell and Boyle also returning.
It was an untidy start to the game but in the eighth minute, as Hibs broke with pace and purpose, the back-tracking Barron did well to put Elie Youan’s intended pass to Boyle behind for a corner, the pressure ending when Youan scooped a shot from 12 yards over the bar when he ought to have at least hit the target.
Around 10 minutes later, Jair Tavares’ shot from an Obita cut-back was blocked by Dons defender Stefan Gartenmann for another corner which came to nothing.
At the other end, in Aberdeen’s first real foray, Miovski pulled the ball back for captain Graeme Shinnie but he failed to connect properly 12 yards from goal and the chance was lost.
The second half could only get better and within minutes of the restart Aberdeen right-back Nicky Devlin did well to clear a Miller cut-back for yet another Hibs corner which the Granite City side survived.
However, the Pittodrie defence was soon to be breached.
A long ball up the park from Hibs defender Will Fish was pulled out the air by the speedy Boyle before he raced on to knock it past Kelle Roos from 12 yards, but a lengthy VAR check ruled him offside and it was the Dons supporters who were cheering.
The game then sparked into life.
Hibs kept pushing and Roos made a fine save from Tavares’ angled-drive, and Dylan Vente’s goal-bound drive from a Youan pass hit Devlin and went behind for a corner and again the Leith side could not capitalise.
Barron made way for Polvara but soon the below-par Dons had more to worry about when MacKenzie, already booked for a foul on Miller earlier, chased after the Hibs defender to push him and receive a second yellow and a red from Beaton.
It looked ominous for Robson’s side but in sensational fashion, Miovski raced on to a Polvara pass and confidently beat Marshall with an angled-drive from 12 yards.
The Dons fans were in raptures and Miovski had another chance when he got through the Hibs rearguard but chipped past the post and then he was booked for going down too easily in the Hibs box under pressure from Fish.
Hibs pressed hard in the closing stages – substitute Christian Doidge sent a header wide – but seven added minutes could not bring a leveller and it was Aberdeen’s day.