Anthony Ralston’s dramatic added time winner for Celtic against Ross County kept the depleted Hoops four points behind Rangers at the top of the cinch Premiership.
Ange Postecoglou was missing six attackers but makeshift striker Liel Abada put the robust visitors ahead in the 21st minute with a close-range finish.
However, County defender Jack Baldwin levelled from a corner in the 57th minute and Hoops defender Carl Starfelt was sent off by referee Alan Muir in the 80th minute for picking up two yellow cards.
It looked like the match was going to end in a draw but in the final minute of six added on, Ralston headed in from a couple of yards for a 2-1 win which had some of the travelling fans spilling on to the pitch.
It remains to be seen how many – if any – of Celtic’s injured players will be available for the Premier Sports Cup final against Hibernian at Hampden Park on Sunday but Postecoglou can take confidence from what he is getting from the rest of his squad, while second-bottom County will count themselves unlucky not to have held on for the point.
Celtic’s well-documented injury concerns resulted in a patched-up side sent out by Postecoglou.
Forwards Kyogo Furuhashi, Albian Ajeti, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jota missed the weekend 1-0 win over Motherwell, where winger James Forrest also picked up an injury. His replacement Mikey Johnston was also substituted and none were in the squad at Dingwall.
Postecoglou’s side was defender-heavy and included Liam Scales – making his first Premiership start – and Adam Montgomery and it was Abada who led the line.
Jake Vokins, Jordan Tillson and Blair Spittal came into the home side and the former, a midfielder, spearheaded the attack.
Celtic were first to threaten in the 12th minute when midfielder Nir Bitton’s header from a David Turnbull corner was parried away by goalkeeper Ash Maynard-Brewer.
The Staggies number one had little chance, however, when Celtic skipper Callum McGregor picked out Scales down the left and his cross was converted by the unmarked Abada with some assurance from seven yards.
Slick-moving Celtic had control and a McGregor effort from outside the box minutes later was comfortably saved by Maynard-Brewer.
Then Josip Juranovic, playing wide midfield, sent Abada racing down the right flank and the Staggies keeper hurtled out of his box and was rounded by the 20-year-old Israel international, who steered the ball towards goal. However, Keith Watson was back in time to clear.
Turnbull came close with a chipped effort from the edge of the box early in the second half before Bitton flashed a shot over the bar, as Celtic pinned the Highland side back.
Striker Jordan White replaced midfielder Ross Callachan as the home side sought another route back into the game – and it paid off almost immediately.
Celtic conceded a corner when Ralston blocked a shot from substitute Dominic Samuel and when Spittal delivered from the left, Baldwin got in front of Scales to knock the ball past Joe Hart.
Postecoglou reacted. Owen Moffat, 19, replaced Adam Montgomery to make his debut and Australia international Tom Rogic was called from the bench to replace Bitton.
Celtic regained their dominance although Starfelt, booked earlier for dissent, was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Regan Charles-Cook
In a frenetic finish, Maynard-Brewer made saves from a Juranovic free-kick and Cameron Carter-Vickers header and in between Hart saved a shot from substitute Jack Burroughs at the second attempt.
However, there was plenty of drama left as Ralston leapt to head in Rogic’s cross to the back post, sparking a mini pitch invasion by delighted and relieved Hoops fans.
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