In-form striker Anthony Stokes scored and had a penalty saved as Celtic ran out 3-0 winners over ten-men Aberdeen at Pittodrie to move eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
In an incident-packed match Andrew Considine was sent off after 57 seconds when he brought down Scott Brown in the box. Jamie Langfield saved the resultant penalty from Stokes but the Irishman soon set up Gary Hooper to slot home the opener in the 12th minute.
Despite creating a number of opportunities it took until the 75th minute for Celtic to increase their lead when Mark Wilson bulleted a header past Langfield for his first goal for the Hoops and ended a five-year scoring drought.
Stokes then atoned for his penalty miss when he fired home two minutes later - for his 11th goal in 19 matches - to send Celtic eight points ahead of Rangers, who have three games in hand starting with their match against third-placed Hearts tomorrow.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was delighted with his side's performance. "I thought we were exceptional again tonight and there is a wee bit of confidence going through the team at the minute," he said. "At 1-0 it is never enough but once the second goal went in we felt very comfortable and were in total control of the game.
His Aberdeen counterpart Craig Brown said it had been a disastrous start. "We had an uphill struggle thereafter," said Brown. "All I would say is the lads showed plenty of endeavour, plenty of commitment, great determination but Celtic had the quality and the extra player," added the former Scotland coach.
An injury to Thomas Rogne robbed Celtic of their last fit centre-half and meant they were forced to field full-backs Wilson and Charlie Mulgrew in the centre of defence while midfielder Efrain Juarez dropped to right-back.
However it was the Dons' defence that had a horror start to the game when Considine tripped Brown in the box. The defender saw red for preventing a goalscoring opportunity but his blushes were spared by Langfield who superbly saved Stokes' penalty low to his left.
However, it didn't take long for Celtic to make the most of their extra man advantage when Hooper fired them into the lead in the 12th minute. Kris Commons robbed Ryan Jack of possession and released Hooper who, after playing a neat one-two with Stokes, slotted low past Langfield from 12 yards.
Things went from bad to worse for the Dons when both Jack and David McNamee limped off to be replaced by debutant Steven Smith and Derek Young. The Dons were on the ropes and were lucky not to concede another penalty when Zander Diamond stopped Brown's shot with a combination of his head and arm.
Celtic continued to press and Rob Milsom blocked Hooper's close-range shot on the line before Beram Kayal's curling shot from 25 yards cracked off the inside of the post and bounced away to safety.
Nick Blackman fired wide and Fraser Forster had to be alert to block a fierce half-volley from Chris Maguire and a bouncing shot from Scott Vernon as the Dons rallied before the break. Former Fulham midfielder Milsom blasted over the bar on the hour mark from 25 yards before Paddy McCourt replaced Kayal.
The substitute immediately created a chance for Commons, who raced away from Smith and rounded Langfield but the winger sent his angled shot on the slide crashing off the outside of the post from five yards out.
Wilson doubled Celtic's lead with his first goal in five years in the 75th minute. The defender got away from marker Paul Hartley to bullet a header past Langfield from Commons' curling corner.
Just over two minutes later Stokes secured Celtic's third victory over Aberdeen in ten days. Hooper teed up his strike partner in the box and he rifled a low shot into the bottom corner past the despairing Langfield.