Hibs have made great strides since the start of the campaign - in a run of four wins in six matches - yet were unable to cover any further distance yesterday as strikes from Scott Vernon and Gregg Wylde knocked them into sixth place in the league table.
They are now five points below Aberdeen and seemed just a little behind the Pittodrie side at Easter Road, too. Hibs looked to be catching up when they pieced together their first meaningful chance on the cusp of half-time, Liam Craig clipping a pass over the top of the Aberdeen defence for Paul Heffernan to scamper through on goal. The Hibs striker found himself rerouted towards the far post, though, and his sharp shot was blunted by the palms of Jamie Langfield.
"We didn't get about them early enough - we let them dictate the game," said Hibs manager Pat Fenlon. "That caused us problems. We changed the shape two or three times, but it didn't help."
Langfield would then lose grip on his sense of assurance, though, with a slip while trying to thump a long ball out of his box allowing James Collins a sight at goal, although the substitute's shot spun wide. "Was my heart in my mouth? Yeah, just a bit," acknowledged Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes.
He would have been less worried by the performance of Ryan Jack. The Aberdeen midfielder had been granted a few days to rest after showing signs of fatigue, and seemed intent on preventing others from dozing off.
He castigated Peter Pawlett after the midfielder neglected a short pass only to manage a briefer run at goal, and worked to neuter Hibs' midfield.
The Aberdeen midfielder was once a signal of his club's youthful intent, but has come to represent the growing maturity in the Pittodrie side this season. This was not always obvious yesterday since the recent recovery from injury of Willo Flood, Russell Anderson and Barry Robson caused their less experienced replacements to recede to the fringes again. It was the revival shown by Vernon which would tell most in Edinburgh, though, the striker scoring his fifth goal of the campaign, each of them having come as a substitute.
Aberdeen hit their mark in the final 10 minutes with Vernon first finding space in the area to thump the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net and 10 minutes later nudging it into the path of Wylde. The winger had time to set himself before guiding a shot under Ben Williams and lead Aberdeen into second in the table. "We've told them they can enjoy it for five minutes," McInnes said. "Motherwell can change that against St Johnstone today and then we play them in the cup on Wednesday. We have to look to that one now."