Match ends, Aberdeen 2, Rangers 2.
Aberdeen 2-2 Rangers: Hosts produce comeback as Gerrard's side lose ground
Rangers slipped two points behind rivals Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership as Aberdeen produced a rousing comeback to snatch a draw at Pittodrie.
Having started the day just a single goal behind Celtic, Steven Gerrard's side let a two-goal lead slip to lose ground.
Goals from Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack had them cruising, before Jon Gallagher snatched one for Aberdeen. And Andrew Considine hauled them level as they emerged transformed after the break.
The point keeps Aberdeen in third place, though now just one point clear of Motherwell, with Rangers made to rue defensive lapses.
Alfredo Morelos had a claim for a penalty waved away by John Beaton as the referee instead awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, while both sides had chances to win it.
Aberdeen's Sam Cosgrove headed inches wide and Joe Lewis produced a superb save to stop James Tavernier's free-kick, as Rangers momentum stutters before Sunday's League Cup final with Celtic.
- Beaton apologised for not awarding penalty - Gerrard
- Comeback will 'shut a few up' - McInnes
- Reaction & as it happened
Transformed Aberdeen halt relentless Rangers
It still seems early to speak of pivotal nights in the title race, but such has been the sheer relentlessness of Rangers and Celtic this season, it is hard not view every dropped point as a crisis.
It was far from that for Rangers in the opening half-hour at Pittodrie, such was their total dominance, which makes the result all the more disappointing.
The home side were chasing shadows, as the interchanging of Rangers' midfield three left Aberdeen players looking round and pointing fingers, none more so than for Arfield's opener. Joe Aribo pressed Gallagher, stole the ball and slipped in the marauding James Tavernier, who picked out the unmarked Arfield, to finish cutely into the far corner.
The flaws of Aberdeen's man-marking system were exposed again for the second as Morelos dropped deep to pick up Jack's pass, which he flicked delightfully into the path of Ryan Kent. The former Liverpool winger gave it back to Morelos and, when Lewis fumbled his effort, Jack was there to tap the ball home.
The pace and incision from the visitors was brilliant, two goals scarcely reflective of the distance between the sides. And then, somehow, out of nowhere, Aberdeen were level.
It was the first time in the entire match they had managed to string a series of passes together, and it caught Rangers cold. Gallagher, who had an opening half-hour to forget, fired in after neat combination play by Sam Cosgrove and James Wilson.
The goal was transformational for Aberdeen, who suddenly got on top with more of the aggression and discipline which had proved successful in the meetings between the sides last term.
Cosgrove, who was lucky to stay on the pitch after almost reaching double figures for fouls, had an angled shot saved moments before the equaliser, which came thanks to a lapse in concentration by Rangers. The visitors failed to deal with a throw-in and, when Lewis Ferguson's cross fell to Cosgrove, his blocked shot wriggled to Considine to side-foot home and send the home crowd delirious.
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes changed shape and his team played with far greater intensity, forcing Rangers to move the ball quicker and quicker, which hastened mistakes and disrupted their rhythm.
Gerrard's side will feel aggrieved the trip on Morelos did not yield a spot-kick, but Cosgrove's header inches wide was the best chance either team had to snatch a winner, though Morelos had two other flash shots which Lewis saved.
Having been criticised heavily by fans after meekly losing 5-0 to Rangers in the sides' last meeting, then 4-0 to Celtic, Aberdeen's second-half resurgence will have restored some faith in the stands that this team has more to give and can compete with the Old Firm over 90 minutes.
As for Rangers, the two points dropped will rankle greatly with Gerrard, but the chance to win a first trophy for seven years on Sunday provides the perfect opportunity to quickly banish the disappointment.
Man of the match - Jon Gallagher
BBC Scotland's Tyrone Smith at Pittodrie
This was a tough decision in a classic game of two halves. But Gallagher edges it, which would have seemed ludicrous after the opening 37 minutes, where he looked well off the pace.
However, his goal transformed both him and the whole Aberdeen team. He was a totally different player after that, a buzz of energy, a menace, who was the catalyst for Aberdeen securing a precious point.
'It shuts a few people up' - reaction
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes: "I needed to see that from my team. But it also shuts a few people up who questioned that.
"The reference point for our season so far has been the two Old Firm games; we go into tonight's game four points better off than we were in the league last year. But nobody wants to talk about that - the players are doing fine."
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told Sky Sports: "When you go 2-0 up you expect your leaders on the pitch to manage the game better, first and foremost get to half-time 2-0 up. They scored at an important time, before half-time, and it seemed to flip the whole momentum of the game.
"It's a penalty [foul on Morelos], it's on the line the referee's close enough. I'm not sure if I'll get an explanation for it, but John Beaton's missed one there."
- 4ConsidineSubstituted forMcLennanat 81'minutes
- 2LoganBooked at 13mins
- 16CosgroveBooked at 33mins
- 28WilsonSubstituted forHedgesat 75'minutes
- 6GoldsonBooked at 83mins
- 37ArfieldBooked at 66minsSubstituted forOjoat 77'minutes
- 14KentSubstituted forKaticat 90+2'minutes
- John Beaton
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Aberdeen 2, Rangers 2.
Substitution, Rangers. Nikola Katic replaces Ryan Kent.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Jon Gallagher.
Attempt blocked. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
James Tavernier (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Greg Leigh (Aberdeen).
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Sam Cosgrove.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Joe Lewis.
Attempt saved. James Tavernier (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.
Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ash Taylor (Aberdeen).
Attempt blocked. Ryan Jack (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Joe Aribo.
Hand ball by Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen).
Connor Goldson (Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Connor Goldson (Rangers).
Scott McKenna (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Aberdeen. Connor McLennan replaces Andrew Considine because of an injury.
Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jon Gallagher (Aberdeen).
Attempt blocked. Ryan Kent (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Rangers. Sheyi Ojo replaces Scott Arfield.
Attempt blocked. James Tavernier (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Aberdeen. Ryan Hedges replaces James Wilson.
Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen).
Offside, Rangers. Steven Davis tries a through ball, but Joe Aribo is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Ryan Kent.
Attempt missed. Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen) header from very close range misses to the right. Assisted by Lewis Ferguson with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Aberdeen. Conceded by Connor Goldson.
Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen).
Attempt missed. Zak Vyner (Aberdeen) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Scott Arfield (Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Scott Arfield (Rangers).
Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Steven Davis (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ryan Kent.
Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Andrew Considine (Aberdeen).
Attempt saved. Greg Leigh (Aberdeen) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner.