THIS breathtakingly compelling game underlined that Aberdeen will prove a major force in the Premiership campaign as they dug deep to grab victory at the point when it appeared Hearts may have done just enough to play out as winners.

In a fiercely-contested ninety minutes where referee Don Robertson was forced to flash his yellow card nine times – the last to Aaron Hickey, then ordered off with eleven minutes remaining – this was no place for the faint hearted.

Derek McInnes, the Dons manager, expressed pre-match concern over the energy levels of his side following their midweek Europa League 
exertions in beating Aberdeen and he must have been equally worried  
that, without central defenders Ash Taylor and Mikey Devlin, he might have to call upon 16-year-old Calvin Ramsay, his only defender on the bench.

Within the opening few minutes, when it became clear that physically would play a major part in this game, he must have thought it was a real possibility that the teenager would have to be called upon, especially as Scott McKenna, his sought-after centre-back, and his direct opponent, Uche Ikpeazu, was keen to keep him occupied.

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Cosgrove’s opener in 13 minutes was his 26th goal in 33 games, a scoring rate that will have scouts from south of the border circling, although McInnes stressed once more “he will not leave in this transfer window”.

A long ball from the Dons defence into space just inside the Hearts half, was headed backwards by their defender Christophe Berra and with Cosgrove almost rubbing his hands for the opportunity, he sprinted 30 yards before burying the ball low past Zdenek Zlamal.

Berra ought to have made amends soon after as he connected well with a cross from the left. But Joe Lewis, in the Dons goal, touched the ball over, although he had little to do after that.

The hosts may have gone in at half-time content with their lead but both McInnes and Jambos’ manager Craig Levein recognized the visitors looked good and when Steven Naismith was invited to replace Jake Mulraney in the 68th minute and was joined by another new signing, Connor Washington, who took over from Andrew Irving at the same time, the pair combined to fashion a stunning goal from the former Norwich front man.

Washington headed on a throw-in on the right and Naismith arrived with a diving header Joe Lewis, the Reds’ goalkeeper did not see. It was the ex-Rangers player’s first touch.

And when Jamie Walker’s neat strike from Jamie Walker put the Tynecastle outfit ahead in the 76th minute, they would have thought they could go on for the victory.

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They didn’t factor-in that Hickey would pick-up a second yellow card, however, nor that Clevid Dikamona would needlessly hack-down Niall McGinn in the penalty area seconds later.

Cue Cosgrove and the inevitable boost which was to turbo-charge McInnes’ men to three points they would not, at one point, have believed was possible.

Ryan Hedges, on for Scott Wright on the hour mark, was in the right place at the right time as Greg Leigh’s low ball was helped on by McGinn and the on-loan full back’s sweet shot five minutes from the end, inflicted damage from which Hearts could not recover.

Levein’s expression told the story of his team’s lack of fluency, not to say poor decision-making as he wondered how they could have managed to discard at least the draw they might have been happy with.

Aside from a drop in tempo for long spells, especially when robust challenges put an end to early flowing football, this was a game that held the attention of the 16,500 fans, happy with the diligence and exuberance of the players.

No-one, not even McInnes, would have grumbled had the points been shared. As it is, Hearts go back to the drawing board to discuss what went wrong and why they allowed themselves to be punished so late in the game.

For Aberdeen, heading this week to Croatia for a Europa League qualifier against HNK Rijeka, there is the comforting statistic that Cosgrove now has eight goals in five games as they opened their league campaign with a fourth successive home win against Hearts.

There is a bright side for the Jambos, though. Washington, Naismith and Walker will make an impact this season and will also offer their fans a lift with their direct and entertaining play.