Both sides went into the game without a league win to their name and off the back of defeats in Europe, but neither team showed much in the way of sluggishness to begin with, as Nicky Devlin headed narrowly over from Jamie McGrath’s cross, and Élie Youan and Martin Boyle saw efforts saved by Kelle Roos.
But inspired subs in Christian Doidge and Adam Le Fondre changed the game; the Welshman starting the move that led to Le Fondre’s opener before nodding in the second after the Dons had failed to clear their lines after a corner.
Gray was pleased that his players didn’t wilt in the heat, which touched 24C at times, and kept going until the final whistle in their efforts to get the side’s first win of the league season.
"I'm delighted with the three points, the performance, the effort, and the commitment from the players,” he said afterwards. “Every single one of them absolutely emptied themselves and gave us everything.
"The incentive before the game was that we knew a win against Aberdeen would take us above them in the league, which is important. It was one last big effort required at the end of a gruelling schedule and now the players can switch off and recharge the batteries.
"It's early in the season; there's a lot to play for. We know where we are in the league at the moment isn't where we should be, we need to be higher, but this was a good start in terms of getting the three points on the board and hopefully we can build on it. It's been a really gruelling start but this is the most important bit, and I’m delighted with the win.”
The message after a spirited performance in the Europa Conference League against Aston Villa on Thursday night was straightforward, with not much time between travelling back to Scotland and Sunday’s kick-off to work on too much on the training ground.
"We've been conceding too many goals but when you look at the game, David Marshall made a great save, an important save, at 0-0 and that got us the clean sheet that we all wanted,” Gray continued.
"That's been our main focus; being harder to beat, and the players really bought into that. We know we've got quality going forward and we're always going to cause teams problems. You need to earn the right to a clean sheet in this league, and you need to defend the box with your life but every player did that.”
Gray expects his own future to be decided one way or another during the international break, but remained impassive when quizzed over his own ambitions – as he always does.
"My future will be decided in the coming days. It's never a nice situation; I don't like talking about it because I think it's disrespectful to those who have just lost their jobs. I love working for the club and the backroom staff and the players have all been great. The amount of work everyone has put in, they've all pulled together and that's helped us get the three points.”