Rangers created history with a victory that seems to guarantee them a ninth successive title. Their lead is now eight points and should be enough of a cushion.
In beating their Glasgow rivals and edging closer towards their own piece of history they recorded their fourth win over Celtic for the first time in any Premier Division season and if Tommy Burns, the Celtic manager, analyses his team's season he will see clearly that they have been left wanting on Old Firm occasions.
The air at Celtic Park was thick with tension for a game of such importance. The nerves of the players were translated into two red and nine yellow cards, while, at the end, provocative gestures from players and half a dozen supporters who had run on to the pitch, created scenes which will undoubtedly be investigated by the Scottish Football Association.
Mark Hateley was sent off in the 66th minute for an apparent head-butt on Stewart Kerr, the Celtic goalkeeper, and his early walk was followed by Malky Mackay, the Celtic defender who suffered a similar fate for a second caution in the 80th minute. However, it seems certain that Paolo Di Canio, the Celtic winger, will be reported to the authorities after squaring up to Ian Ferguson of Rangers on the final whistle. Later, Di Canio had to go the referee's office, but no action was taken.
The visiting players were ushered up the tunnel by police and stewards after an inflammatory gesture in which they aped the pre-match huddle which Celtic have adopted this season.
The peripheral events will be given greater magnitude because the game itself was a disappointing one with the demands of the occasion providing little by way of constructive football. Even the goal, which was scored in the 44th minute, owed much to the stresses of the day as nervous Celtic defending allowed Hateley to head on for Ian Durrant, and as Kerr and MacKay scrambled to protect their line, Brian Laudrup forced the ball untidily into the net.
If Burns considers his side has been unlucky in games against Rangers this season he can point to a thunderous volley by Di Canio after a free- kick was flicked into the air for him. The Italian's effort cannoned back off the crossbar. However, that effort apart, Celtic rarely threatened a Rangers rearguard which protected Andy Dibble, their goalkeeper who was making his debut, while the Rangers midfield took a grip on the game in the same way as Celtic had dominated the cup tie here 10 days ago.
Rangers were dangerous on the break although they too had difficulty in creating clear-cut chances, their efforts being reduced to long shots and free-kicks.
The tension of the day boiled over when Rangers were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Celtic penalty area. Kerr raced to remonstrate with Hateley, who had confronted the Celtic man and was shown the red card by the referee. Parity was restored in terms of personnel with 10 minutes remaining as Mackay brought down Laudrup to earn his second yellow card of the day.
Di Canio drove wide and Enrico Annoni put a header narrowly past the post, but with games remaining neither manager would concede anything. "There are still six games to go so we haven't won the League yet," said Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, while Burns added: "We will continue to look to win our final six games and hope for the best."
Goal: Laudrup (44) 0-1.
Celtic (3-5-2): Kerr; Annoni, Stubbs (Donnelly, 62), Mackay; McNamara, Grant (Hannah, 68), McStay, O'Donnell, McKinlay; Di Canio, Cadete. Substitute not used: Thom.
Rangers (3-5-2): Dibble; McLaren, Gough (Miller, 62), Bjorklund; Cleland, Moore, Ferguson, Durrant (McCoist, 85), Albertz; Laudrup, Hateley. Substitute not used: Rae.
Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).
Bookings: Celtic: Kerr, Annoni, Mackay, Grant, Di Canio; Rangers: Gough, Bjorklund, Durrant, Miller. Sendings-off: Celtic: Mackay; Rangers: Hateley.
Man of the match: Bjorklund.
Attendance: 49,929.Reuse content