Zola wins it for Dons
Calvin Zola's close-range strike early in the second half was enough to see Aberdeen seal a 1-0 victory over Dundee United at Pittodrie.
The former Burton striker pounced on Niall McGinn's cross to turn home what would prove the winner in an entertaining game.
The Dons returned from the international break with Zola and Russell Anderson fit to return to the starting XI, and Barry Robson made the bench, his first involvement since the opening day of the season.
Willo Flood also came in to the Dons midfield, his first start since pulling a hamstring in August.
United made one change from their win over Kilmarnock, Gavin Gunning starting in place of John Souttar.
It was a frantic start on a drab, damp day in the Granite City and with tackles flying in on the greasy pitch, the first booking was handed to Aberdeen's Andrew Considine after eight minutes.
Three minutes later, United midfielder John Rankin picked up a loose ball and fired a 20-yard shot which was headed well off target before a deflection off Mark Reynolds brought it much closer to the mark.
Aberdeen's other full-back, Joe Shaughnessy, was next into the book for hauling back Nadir Ciftci after the winger had adeptly stroked the ball through the Irishman's legs.
Once they had settled into the game and adapted to the surface, United's sharp passing game posed problems for the Dons defence, but Aberdeen were unlucky when a quick ball out of defence from Anderson clipped the heels of McGinn and broke into the welcoming arms of Radoslaw Czierniak.
On the half-hour, Aberdeen-born Stuart Armstrong strode forward from midfield for the visitors, but sent his 20-yard, left-footed strike wide of Jamie Langfield's post.
Czierniak was forced into his first real save a couple of minutes later, standing firm at his near post to push Jonny Hayes' angled effort behind for a corner.
The Pole's goal was quickly under threat again, but McGinn just failed to make contact with Zola's header from a Ryan Jack free-kick.
United were quickly back on the front foot, and Keith Watson was unlucky to see an audacious overhead kick squirm narrowly wide.
At the other end, McGinn saw a 25-yard free-kick held by Czierniak after Zola had been fouled by Sean Dillon.
The home side stepped things up in the early stages after the interval, and took the lead eight minutes into the second half.
Peter Pawlett picked out McGinn on the left, and his low cross was perfect for Zola to steer into the bottom-right corner from close range.
The visitors response saw Gary Mackay-Steven come off the bench to replace Ryan Gauld, shortly after Ciftci had blazed a free-kick over the bar.
After 65 minutes, Ciftci weaved his way through the Dons defence to the edge of the area, but from a promising position he pulled his shot wide of the target.
The Dons first change saw Robson introduced to the action in place of Shaughnessy, with Jack moving to fill the right-back slot vacated by the Irishman.
With 17 minutes remaining, United were denied an equaliser by the bravery of Langfield, who raced off his line to block Goodwillie's effort after Ciftci and Mackay-Steven combined to create the chance.
Brian Graham was brought into the action for Armstrong a minute later, and then Ciftci clipped the roof of the net with another free-kick soon after. Anderson was booked for the foul that saw the set-piece given away.
Goalscorer Zola was then replaced by Scott Vernon for the home side, and with 10 minutes to go both sides made their final changes, Aberdeen bringing on Michael Hector for Jack, while Ryan Dow replaced Goodwillie for the Arabs.
Langfield was booked with five minutes remaining, his name taken by referee Bobby Madden for timewasting.
The changes had seen United adopt a more direct approach, and the home side rode their luck in the closing stages, most notably when Watson headed over from a Mackay-Steven corner.
Derek McInnes' men held out, though, to secure three points that move them within two points of second-placed Inverness.