Denuded of their four most prominent performers, Aberdeen delivered a display of genuine accomplishment to contemptuously brush aside a Partick Thistle team who had hitherto proved themselves the equal to anything the SPFL Premiership could offer. On this evidence, the widespread belief that they are the second-strongest squad in the division is valid.
With Russell Anderson, Barry Robson, Willo Flood, Niall McGinn all invalided, the depth of Derek McInnes's resources was stringently measured but passed the examination with some style. Indeed, there was even a hint of panache in the manner in which a team without a win in three matches overwhelmed their hosts.
Not that the manager would entertain any notions of Aberdeen expecting to finish second. "How arrogant and naive would that be? We've not been in the top six for four or five seasons," he said. "What I will say is the performance was encouraging. "
The manager himself merits mention as his bold selection decisions were spectacularly rewarded. Although dictated by circumstance as much as design, McInnes appeared to have abandoned established tactical conventions by effectively doing without a midfield; Ryan Jack anchored a formation that included three wingers and two strikers.
That might have seemed risky, but the pace in the XI enabled them to frustrate Thistle then spring into attack. Peter Pawlett, Cammy Smith and Gregg Wylde were central to this organised anarchy, scampering forth with astonishing alacrity, but Jonny Hayes was by far the most effective and was involved in both of the visitors' first-half goals.
The Irishman had already served notice of his threat with one slaloming run and fierce shot that Scott Fox pushed past a post but, from the consequent corner, Aberdeen established a 13th-minute advantage. Hayes' delivery was flicked out to Michael Hector at the edge of the area and he lobbed back into the six-yard box where Calvin Zola was waiting to nudge past Fox.
It was a poor goal for Thistle to concede but, if Alan Archibald was riled by that concession, he was even more angered by the second seven minutes later. Hayes and Smith made progress down the right, but when the ball squirted into the area it seemed Gabriel Piccolo would take command. Unfortunately not. The Mexican allowed Zola to wriggle in front of him and cut back for Pawlett to drill past two retreating defenders and over the line. "I think he thought he couldn't challenge in case he conceded a penalty," said Archibald, charitably.
Further errors ensued. Both Piccolo and Aaron Muirhead almost caught out Fox with panicked passbacks, while the pace and sleight of foot of Hayes continued to cause problems. The winger tested the goalkeeper again after duping Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and volleyed narrowly wide from a Wylde cross, as well as being involved in another swift counter culminating in Zola's header being saved.
Fox, certainly, prevented the result becoming more chastening for Thistle. One second-half save from a Smith header was breathtaking, but his team-mates struggled to match his heroics. Archibald's side offered only fleeting moments of encouragement to the home support. They twice came close just before the break, Taylor-Sinclair's deflected shot forcing a splendid save from Jamie Langfield and Sean Welsh having a back-post effort blocked by Joe Shaughnessy, but that was as good as it would get.
Kallum Higginbotham and Steven Lawless were subdued, the former's best effort a late lash against an upright with Langfield beaten, while the introduction of Kris Doolan and Ross Forbes made scant difference even if the latter bent a vicious free-kick just over the crossbar.
Such impotence meant Aberdeen's third goal, with 20 minutes remaining, was moot. Josh Magennis, on for Zola as McInnes opted to add even more pace to his side, bustled Piccolo aside as the pair chased a ball down the right and thundered into the area before lashing a fierce shot through Fox's legs.
"You can't give goals away," said Archibald. "We made basic errors. They didn't have to work hard for the goals and that's the disappointing thing."