IF a week is a long time in football normally, then this last one must have seemed like an eternity for Neil Lennon. This one afternoon at Pittodrie alone may have aged the Celtic manager by several years.

A titanic second-half tussle saw Aberdeen eventually salvage a point in injury-time from the third penalty of the match, after Celtic had hit back from falling behind twice to lead going into the final stages. That each side had to settle for three goals and a point apiece was probably a just outcome in the end.

For the champions though, Lewis Ferguson’s late leveller completely changes the narrative. What would have been hailed as a comeback to prove their character after a nightmarish week, no matter how it may have papered over some rather concerning cracks in their performance, now becomes another inquest after more ground was given up to Rangers in the title race.

Their display bore the same hallmarks for long periods that have concerned supporters and even Lennon himself for much of the season. In the first half in particular, Celtic were ponderous and lacking in a final ball, while the poor form of Shane Duffy remains a worry.

It was no surprise to see Neil Lennon sticking with the 4-2-3-1 system that had steadied Celtic against AC Milan on Thursday night, but there were some interesting tweaks within the line-up.

Under-fire goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas was missing from the squad with a back issue, allowing Scott Bain to come in for his first start of the season. Tom Rogic also made his first start, with captain Scott Brown missing again and Olivier Ntcham sitting deep in his place.

Aberdeen made just one change from the midweek win over Hamilton, with Ross McCrorie coming in for Scott Wright. The attacker would have his say as a substitute later in the game though.

The swirling wind and rain was wholly in-keeping with Aberdeen in late October, and it was perhaps no surprise then that the home side adapted to the conditions quicker. Indeed, they might have had the lead if McCrorie could have directed his header from a deep Marley Watkins cross on target instead of directly off Diego Laxalt.

Ntcham was seeing plenty of the ball, and he was unlucky to see a swerving effort from distance veer just past via the outside of the post.

From there, Celtic started to boss proceedings, dominating possession and territory but without unduly threatening Joe Lewis.

Just before the break though, Ntcham undid his earlier good work by clumsily piling into the back of Lewis Ferguson in the area. The Aberdeen man may have been looking for the contact, but to give it to him was needless and naive. Willie Collum pointed to the spot, and Ferguson duly slotted the penalty into the net high to Bain’s left.

Perhaps it was fitting that on the day Aberdeen paid tribute to the late Ebbe Skovdahl that his most famous saying could easily have applied to the first half. Celtic may have had all the ball, but there was only one statistic that mattered.

All of a sudden, the half-time interval took on huge significance for Lennon and Celtic, perhaps the most significant in fact since his side were 3-0 down at Kilmarnock during his first spell in charge of the club. Another rousing comeback was required, but this time, Lennon and his team desperately needed a win.

The same players were sent out with a flea in their ear, and the response was almost immediate. Callum McGregor was captain on the day, and answered the call.

The midfielder linked with Rogic, who played a lovely reverse ball back into his teammate’s path as he marauded into the area, showing a deft touch to skip past a challenge and then an emphatic one to drill low past Lewis.

Derek McInnes responded with a couple of changes, the most notable of which was the return of Sam Cosgrove, albeit his introduction was enforced due to a head injury sustained by Ryan Edmondson when he was nudged into the trackside wall by Duffy.

It seemed set up for Celtic to complete the comeback and salvage a torrid week, but instead Duffy – who has perhaps had the worst run of any Celtic player – handed the initiative back to the hosts.

The on-loan Brighton man looked to be in control as he shepherded a long ball back towards goal, but he allowed Wright to charge down his clearance and feed the ball inside to Cosgrove. The striker’s shot on the turn was saved by Bain, but the ball ricocheted off Ryan Hedges and into the net.

That may have been an element of luck about the finish, but Celtic cannot point to bad fortune when their problems were caused by their own sloppy play.

It was Hail Mary time for Lennon, and on came captain Scott Brown for Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths for the anonymous Albian Ajeti. Why he wasn’t on sooner was anyone’s guess, and he immediately proved his worth.

Aberdeen were screaming for a foul when Duffy pushed Cosgrove on half-way, but referee Collum waved play on and Celtic took full advantage. Rogic managed to smuggle the ball through to Griffiths in the box, who worked the ball onto his left foot and curled it into the top corner.

Moments later, incredibly, Celtic had a penalty. Moi Elyounoussi – who was about to be hooked before the equaliser – made his first meaningful contribution of the day as he latched onto a high ball only to be decked by Tommie Hoban.

Christie stepped up again and sent Lewis the wrong way, and it looked as though he had saved three precious points.

Having earlier hauled his team back into the match though, McGregor uncharacteristically cost his team. With Aberdeen pushing for the equaliser in injury time, he lunged desperately to block a shot, only for his trailing leg to haul down Connor McLennan and give away yet another spot-kick. Ferguson did the rest, tucking home once more, and suddenly the heat was back on Celtic and Lennon.