Queen of the South 4 Aberdeen 3
Queen of the South substitute John Stewart made himself the hero of Dumfries with the Scottish Cup semi-final winner against his former club Aberdeen on a crazy afternoon at Hampden.
Seldom has the national stadium seen such drama.
Dons defender Andrew Considine’s header cancelled out Steve Tosh’s opener in a relatively tame first half, but the game exploded in a 12-minute spell after the break.
Twice Queen of the South forced themselves ahead through Paul Burns and Sean O’Connor, Aberdeen equalising each time through Barry Nicholson and Considine again.
There was barely time to draw breath before Stewart, on for Stephen Dobbie just before the break, latched on to a header from skipper Jimmy Thomson and drove home from 10 yards out to take the Doonhamers into their first Scottish Cup final.
The Dons fans booed their side at the final whistle but only they could begrudge the Irn-Bru First Division side a famous and historic victory.
Queens now face a wait to discover who they will face in the final next month.
The winners of the replayed Partick Thistle versus Rangers quarter-final, who meet at Firhill tomorrow, will take on St Johnstone in the other semi-final.
But that was far from the thoughts of both teams as they kicked off at lunchtime today.
Less than three minutes had passed when Dons goalkeeper Derek Soutar battered an attempted clearance off Sean O’Connor at the edge of the box, the ball rebounding behind for a goal kick to the relief of the Aberdeen fans.
In the 13th minute, with neither side taking full control of the game, Dobbie received a pass from Tosh 25 yards out but his curled shot went just past Soutar’s left-hand post.
The First Division side were showing no signs of inferiority and in the 21st minute they took a dramatic lead through former Dons midfielder Tosh.
The hesitant Soutar failed to punch clear Ryan McCann’s deep free-kick into the Aberdeen penalty box and the ball broke to Andy Aitken who slipped it back to Tosh.
The former Gretna player ignored the mass of bodies in front of him and carefully sidefooted his shot from 14 yards into the top corner to set 10,000 Queen of the South fans wild with delight.
Queens midfielder Burns then took a Dobbie pass and slotted past Soutar moments later but was correctly ruled offside.
Aberdeen had been jolted into action and in the 35th minute they got an equaliser thanks to the head of Considine.
Barry Nicholson’s free-kick reached Severin at the back post despite the attempted clearance by Tosh and when he helped the ball back into the busy penalty area, Considine rose highest to nod past Jamie MacDonald.
The underdogs were dealt another blow three minutes from the interval when top scorer Dobbie limped off to be replaced by Stewart, but the Palmerston men regained the lead three minutes after the interval.
McQuilken’s pass down the left flank was chased by Stewart who left Diamond in his wake before cutting the ball across to Burns whose first attempt from 14 yards was blocked by Scott Severin.
The ball rebounded kindly to the Queen of the South midfielder who made no mistake in firing high into the net.
A minute later Chris Maguire’s angled shot was saved by MacDonald, the Doonhamers ’keeper then stopping Sone Aluko’s cross back into the six-yard box.
But in the 52nd minute Aberdeen were level again.
Maguire’s cross from the left was headed towards goal by Lee Miller and although MacDonald made another fine reflex stop, Nicholson was on hand to knock the ball in from close range.
There was more drama to come four minutes later when Aberdeen fell behind for the third time.
Considine failed to cut out Tosh’s long pass and O’Connor latched on to the ball, turned inside Zander Diamond and slotted past Soutar from just inside the box.
Two minutes later the teams were level again. Nicholson’s cross from the right was helped on by Miller and Considine found himself alone at the back post with the easiest of tasks to head home.
The madness continued on the hour mark when Queens scored an almost identical goal to the one they had just lost, Stewart lashing the ball past Soutar after being left unmarked.
Aberdeen came back yet again and in the 72nd minute Diamond headed Nicholson’s free-kick off the crossbar before hitting the post with the rebound.
With six minutes to go Thomson’s last-gasp tackle on Aluko brought claims of a penalty from the Dons fans which referee Kenny Clark rightly ignored.
The Pittodrie side threw everything forward in search of an equaliser and Nicholson came closest but Gordon Chisholm’s men held on through four minutes of added time and will be back at Hampden on May 24.