Aberdeen were knocked out of the Europa League after two late goals gave Real Sociedad a 3-2 victory in their third qualifying round, second leg encounter at Pittodrie.
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Peter Pawlett and Mark Reynolds scored either side of a first-half Xabi Prieto strike to give Aberdeen a 2-1 lead, but they could not find the further two goals needed to progress.
Sociedad captain Prieto then broke Aberdeen hearts by scoring from the penalty spot with four minutes remaining and Markel Bergara scored moments from the end to give the Basque side victory on the night and a 5-2 aggregate triumph.
After losing the first leg 2-0, the Dons knew they would have to score first to stand any realistic chance of progressing to the next round and, with an attacking line-up that included David Goodwillie and Andrew Considine in place of Adam Rooney and Barry Robson, they started brightly.
As early as the third minute, Pawlett made a dart up the left wing, his charge illegally halted and allowing Niall McGinn to play a clever free kick to Jonny Hayes, only for the winger to miss his kick.
Goodwillie, making his first competitive start for the Dons, lofted a pass for McGinn soon after, but the former Celtic man lofted his effort narrowly over.
The home side had the ball in the net on the quarter hour. Considine headed Hayes' corner into the area where Ryan Jack coolly slotted past Enaut Zubikarai, only to be denied by the linesman's flag.
Although they had not put Jamie Langfield under any direct pressure, Sociedad looked comfortable on the ball and a real threat on the counter attack. As if to prove the point, it took a timely intervention from Shay Logan to deny Alfred Finnbogason as the visitors broke following another Dons set-piece.
If Sociedad brought guile, Aberdeen were not afraid to mix it physically, with Willo Flood always happy to demonstrate his street-fighting mentality. The Irishman won a midfield battle after 25 minutes then cleverly drew the foul from Ruben Pardo that led to the first booking of the game.
But two minutes later, the hearts of the home support were broken, as another strong counter led to Langfield conceding a corner. Chori Castro whipped the ball in to the near post, where Prieto surely put the game beyond doubt.
If there is one thing to be said for Derek McInnes' side, though, it is that they never know when they are beaten, and a minute before half-time, they grabbed an unlikely lifeline.
McGinn created the chance with a cross from the left which found Goodwillie. His effort was blocked on the line, but Pawlett followed up to give his side a glimmer of hope.
They could have been right back in the tie had referee Eitan Shemeulevitch seen Hayes' tumble just moments after the restart differently, the Irishman seemingly bundled over. Play on was the call, and a frustrated Hayes was promptly booked for chopping down Joseba Zaldua.
And they were right back in it after 56 minutes. Sociedad, as had so often been the case, looked nervy defending a corner. They half-cleared, but McGinn picked up the loose ball and sent in a wicked cross from the left which Reynolds headed in before Pittodrie erupted to the sound of 5,000 vuvuzelas, given away by a local company in the build-up to the match, and suddenly the dream was alive once more.
In the aftermath of the goal, Sociedad were forced into a change, bringing on Imanol Agirretxe for the injured Finnbogason, and they used their third change - Sergio Canales for Castro - just after the hour.
Aberdeen still had all three changes available and threw caution to the wind, introducing Rooney, scorer of six European goals already this season, in place of Pawlett with 25 minutes to go.
The Dons were throwing men forward now, and their next change saw midfielder Nicky Low replace Considine.
Chances were rare now, the stream of substitutions having broken up the flow of the game, but Sociedad should have put the game beyond doubt when Canales was played in by Agirretxe, only to somehow turn wide.
With 10 minutes to go the final Aberdeen change saw defender Ash Taylor called into action as an emergency centre-forward, replacing the hard-working Goodwillie.
Hope was finally ended for the Dons with five minutes remaining. Logan was penalised for a foul in the area, for which the Aberdeen man was also booked, and Prieto stepped up to chip home his second of the evening from the penalty spot.
To rub salt into the wounds, defender Bergara rose unchallenged to head home a Canales cross in the final minute, meaning that despite their brave performance, the Dons would ultimately lose on the night as well as on aggregate.