Derek McInnes reckons it would have been a “sickener” had Kilmarnock not prevailed in their compelling Premier Sports Cup quarter-final against Dundee United at Rugby Park.
Kyle Lafferty’s early opener from the penalty spot was cancelled out instantly by Glenn Middleton.
Daniel Armstrong headed home unmarked from Jordan Jones’ cross 17 minutes from time to book Killie’s place at Hampden for the first time since lifting the trophy 10 years ago.
McInnes said: “We’re delighted. It wasn’t easy, we didn’t expect it to be.
“We made a brilliant start to the game and everything went the way we wanted, applying pressure, getting the first goal, and I think our front two caused a bit of panic in their backline.
“It’s so annoying that we’ve gifted a goal – the equaliser is just ridiculous.
“We need to learn from that as we are making wins far more difficult for ourselves.
“Hopefully (this is the start of something bigger). We’ve had one transfer window to put together a squad that can compete and I think we are getting better.
“We spoke with the players about getting to Hampden at the start of the season, seeing the bigger picture, getting through the group stages and then you’re only a couple of games away from Hampden.
“We’ve not done enough as a club in the last 10 years to get to Hampden. We’ve had good moments in the league, especially under Steve (Clarke) during his strong 18-month period particularly.
“I think having a good cup run brings so many benefits, including the financial rewards which are clearly going to be important.
“It’s a massive moment and I think we had to step forward and take the opportunity that was given to us. We’ve got such a good home record here, only Celtic have managed to beat us here.
“It would have been a sickener if we hadn’t taken the opportunity and being a good cup team is something that’s going to be significantly important to us.”
Dundee United boss Liam Fox admitted the defeat was a real missed opportunity and there was an overriding feeling of disappointment.
He added: “Fair play to Kilmarnock for getting a second goal to win the game, but it’s disappointing for us.
“It’s a missed opportunity for us. But the games are coming thick and fast, so we can’t afford to feel sorry for ourselves.
“We got back level but then didn’t really kick on. That’s probably my biggest disappointment.
“We were better in the second half and had a bit more control.
“But we didn’t threaten as much as I wanted and didn’t test the Kilmarnock keeper enough.
“We switched off when a cross came into our box – and it ended up costing us.
“Let’s have it right – it’s a huge disappointment for us and a real missed opportunity.”