It was a sign of Celtic's earlier Scottish Premier League struggles this season that plenty of observers had anticipated a slip-up from the defending champions in Aberdeen.
What transpired was something else entirely. Despite being well short of their best, Celtic swatted their hosts aside in just a few second-half minutes and returned to the top of the SPL. Rather than suffer another domestic blow, then, Neil Lennon was afforded the perfect boost ahead of Tuesday night's crucial Champions League trip to face Benfica in Lisbon.
Lassad Nouioui, with his first goal for the club, and Charlie Mulgrew earned Celtic victory here. Aberdeen, given their flashes of promise in the early weeks of the campaign, were disappointingly blunt – albeit, in general, this was a scrappy, dour contest.
Lennon would accept exactly the same in Portugal, if it means Celtic can gather any kind of tangible reward at all. A point may be enough to send Celtic into the last 16, victory would certainly secure such a passage from a group Lennon's men have blossomed in.
Yet it is only in glimpses thus far that Celtic have shown what their are capable of in the SPL. Because of that, they have found Hibernian and Aberdeen in close quarters at the summit of the league. It would still be a surprise if a title race materialised, even if the chances available to other clubs is one positive spin-off of Rangers' absence from the top flight. Aberdeen now have legitimate European aspirations.
In a welcome north-east sight, 18,000 people headed to Pittodrie for this match. Aberdeen's decline as a football city has been well covered, and bemoaned, but occasions such as this highlight what pull the club has even when success is hinted at. It will vex the Aberdeen manager, Craig Brown, that his players lacked punch to match expectancy.
Aberdeen actually opened as the brighter side, without placing Fraser Forster in the visiting goal under meaningful pressure. Celtic should have taken the lead after 15 minutes, Victor Wanyama instead heading over the crossbar from a Mulgrew corner. Tony Watt was the next Celtic player to threaten but he, too, failed to find the target when connecting with Kris Commons' terrific cross.
Aberdeen's solitary chance of the first half, and ultimately their best of the match, fell to Niall McGinn. The ex-Celtic player, who has enjoyed a prolific touch in front of goal recently, pulled his attempt wide of Forster's right-hand post.
Opportunities had been at a premium or, to be blunt, non-existent in the second period until Celtic's breakthrough. Wanyama crashed a fierce long-range shot off a post, with Lassad on hand to stroke the rebound into an empty net.
Just four minutes later, Mulgrew killed the contest. Georgios Samaras was this time the creator, with Mulgrew supplying a smart finish when on the turn.
"This was always going to be a difficult game," Lennon said. "The pitch was not conducive to good football, the ball was bobbling quite a bit so we had to adapt. I thought we had good control of the game. My back four were excellent against a team with their tails up and the crowd behind them. This was a real test and the players came through it well."
Commons limped from the fray with a dead leg but Lennon is confident the midfielder will be fit to travel to Lisbon. Celtic absentees at Aberdeen included Gary Hooper, Scott Brown and Joe Ledley, who are due to return to training on Sunday.
"I don't think we did enough to win the game," conceded Brown. "I'm maybe being optimistic but it looked like 0-0 and a wonderful shot [from Wanyama] changed the whole game. I'm hoping the supporters who came along here won't be disenchanted. They can see some potential and excitement in our play, two wingers and a real solid team.
"And I want to wish Celtic luck for their European tie on Tuesday."