Celtic staged a stunning fightback to snatch a 3-3 draw at Kilmarnock after the Glasgow club trailed by three goals at half-time at Rugby Park on Saturday. Neil Lennon's side were heading for their second league defeat of the season after a three-goal blitz left the Hoops in disarray.
Dean Shiels opened the scoring for the hosts midway through the opening period and further goals from Paul Heffernan and James Fowler just before the break put Kilmarnock in dreamland. Celtic were still 3-0 down with 73 minutes gone but Anthony Stokes sparked a sensational revival with two goals in three minutes and Charlie Mulgrew hit the equaliser with ten minutes left. Although Celtic were delighted to escape with a draw, they will be 12 points behind leaders Rangers if the champions beat St Mirren later on Saturday.
Lennon made four changes following the defeat at Hearts in his side's last match. Kris Commons was suspended and Badr El-Kaddouri, Victor Wanyama and Mohamed Bangura all dropped to the bench, with Cha Du-Ri, Joe Ledley, Beram Kayal and Stokes coming in. Kilmarnock had lost four successive league games and they could have been behind again the 12th minute when Stokes missed a glorious chance to open the scoring.
Right-back Cha surged onto a James Forrest pass and cut the ball across the six-yard box to Stokes, only to see the Irish forward fire wide with the goal at his mercy. But it was Kilmarnock who took the lead in the 26th minute when Alex Pursehouse drove a long diagonal pass for Heffernan to chase into the Celtic penalty area.
Heffernan turned inside defender Daniel Majstorovic to set up Shiels for a low shot past Fraser Forster from 12 yards. There was no improvement in Celtic's defending and Kilmarnock scored again in the 40th minute. Shiels fired in a cross from wide on the left and Heffernan nipped in behind the static Celtic defence to guide the ball past Forster from close range. It got even worse for Celtic in the final seconds of the half as Fowler raced on to a short pass-back from Hoops captain Mulgrew to lob the ball over Forster for the third goal.
Lennon responded by hauling off Gary Hooper and Kayal at half-time, sending on Bangura and Wanyama and the changes helped Celtic gradually get back in the match. Celtic's pressure paid off in the 73rd minute when Stokes hammered a free-kick past Anssi Jaakkola to give the visitors a lifeline.
An incredible comeback was well underway when Stokes turned and fired a low drive past Jaakkola from long-range for his second goal three minutes later. And Mulgrew sparked wild celebrations in the 80th minute as he made up for his first-half error by heading in the close-range equaliser from Majstorovic's flick.