Celtic moved three points clear at the top after Lee Naylor's late equaliser rescued a 2-2 draw at Dundee United. Gordon Strachan's side arrived at Tannadice hoping to open up a five-point lead over second-placed Rangers, but the reigning champions left relieved to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
Australia striker Scott McDonald had given Celtic a first-half lead, but United's Spanish forward Francisco Sandaza scored twice soon after half-time to put the hosts in front, before Naylor's intervention kept the Hoops in pole position to win the title. Strachan opted to restore Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink alongside McDonald in the Celtic forward line, after dropping the Dutch striker for the League Cup final win over Rangers last weekend.
With the title momentum there for the taking, it was no surprise that Celtic made a ferocious start. Aiden McGeady skipped past Tannadice left-back Paul Dixon in the third minute, but he flashed his shot over the bar from the edge of the box. Vennegoor of Hesselink then drove a shot from 25 yards which just evaded the toe of the in-rushing McDonald.
Paul Hartley was next to try his luck with a dipping volley from 30 yards which flashed past Lukasz Zaluska's left-hand post. When Lee Wilkie conceded a corner in the 24th minute, Hartley's in-swinging delivery was inadvertently directed towards his own goal by Garry Kenneth and, although Zaluska got a hand to the ball, he could only parry it to McDonald, who headed in from close range for his 16th goal of the season.
United responded with Conway's low drive forcing a save from Artur Boruc. But Celtic remained in control and in the 36th minute McDonald's shot from 25 yards was well kept out by Zaluska. From Shunsuke Nakamura's resulting corner, Vennegoor of Hesselink challenged Zaluska and as the ball looked net-bound, United midfielder Morgaro Gomis cleared off the line.
United looked more purposeful at the start of the second period, however, and within two minutes they had drawn level. Warren Feeney won a corner and when Dixon whipped his cross to the front post, Sandaza flicked it past a posse of players inside the six-yard box and high into the net.
Celtic were suddenly struggling and in the 57th minute Sandaza grabbed his second as the champions' defence went to sleep after a short free-kick from James Wesolowski sent Dixon racing down down the right. Dixon cut the ball back across the Celtic box and it fell to Sandaza, whose turn and shot beat Boruc to send the home fans wild.
That sparked a strong response from Celtic and Zaluska made a fine save when he parried McDonald's angled shot in the 73rd minute. But in the 81st minute, after Kenneth failed to clear properly, Naylor smashed an unstoppable volley past Zaluska.