GLASGOW City took a huge step towards a ninth successive SWPL title when a Julie Fleeting hat-trick helped them to an emphatic 6-0 win over Celtic while Hibs, who started the day level on points, suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 3-0 at Aberdeen.

With just four games remaining and a superior goal difference, City could afford to lose against Hibs on October 4 and still win the title – provided they win their other three games.

Two of these, against Spartans and Rangers, should be routine, but they will face a much tougher test when they host fast-improving Aberdeen in the penultimate game.

There was always the prospect of an upset at Heathryfold Park, but the size of Aberdeen’s win surprised even boss Allan Smith.

“We were under the cosh in the first 45 minutes and there were a few stern words and adjustments at half time,” he said. “We told the players to go out and believe in their ability and in the second half we were fantastic.”

Hibs had the opportunity to take the lead just before half-time but, having converted two penalties against Spartans the previous Sunday, Lizzie Arnot saw her spot kick tipped on to the post by Scotland Under-19 goalkeeper Becky Flaherty.

Donna Paterson gave Aberdeen the lead with a header in the second half but Jenna Fife saved Rachael Small’s penalty to keep the visitors in the hunt.

However, Hibs went further behind when holding midfielder Paterson notched her second and a tough afternoon for the title contenders ended with Rebecca Dempster adding a third.

“Donna didn’t have a particularly good game in the first half, but in the second she was outstanding,” Smith said. “We’re getting goals from all over the park at the moment.

“The Hibs penalty save was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Rachael struck the ball really well and it was going to the top corner but the goalie got a touch – it was outstanding.”

City were 3-0 up against Celtic at half-time, thanks to an early penalty from captain Leanne Ross. Two quick goals before the interval from Hayley Lauder and Denise O’Sullivan, and a fourth just after it by substitute Fleeting added to the home side’s woes.

The record Scotland goalscorer then brought her tally to five in two games when she added two more.

“It was a good win,” said City head coach Scott Booth.

“In the previous few games we’ve played well in short spells but today we did it for bigger chunks.”