Celtic took another impressive stride in their advance on all three domestic fronts when they outfought and outplayed Dundee United at a sodden Tannadice yesterday afternoon.
Unlike the game itself, which had been threatened by a remorseless rainfall, the issue was rarely in doubt once Neil Lennon's side got their noses in front before the interval with goals from Anthony Stokes and Mark Wilson.
United did stage a revival that culminated in a drive beyond Fraser Forster by David Goodwillie, but they lacked the composure and resolve to maintain the pressure and succumbed to a late diving header from Daniel Majstorovic.
With this victory, Celtic restored their five-point advantage over Rangers -- who have two games in hand -- ahead of the third Old Firm league derby at Parkhead next Sunday.
By half-time Celtic were 2-0 up thanks to goals from Stokes and Wilson respectively, which had been deflected wildly beyond Dusan Pernis in each case, first by Garry Kenneth and then by Sean Dillon.
Celtic could make a plausible case for claiming that fortune had merely favoured the better side.
Certainly the second strike was the product of delightful interplay in which Wilson linked with Scott Brown before despatching the shot which veered off Dillon to give the Celtic defender his second goal inside as many weeks, after five years without finding the net.
United were entitled to a degree of grievance when Wilson, who had been cautioned for running to the crowd when celebrating his goal, avoided a second such sanction when he clattered into Craig Conway. However, the free-kick at least brought them back into contention when Brown failed to clear properly and Goodwillie stabbed his low drive past Forster.
Dundee United, though, had repeatedly undermined themselves with some unforced errors and another of the same almost skewered them when a misplaced header from Dillon allowed Gary Hooper to turn an angled effort beyond Pernis.
After a protracted pause, however, the ball bobbled off the base of the post.
After Hooper was wrongly flagged offside when he tapped in at the back post from a Georgios Samaras prompt, Majstorovic nailed down Celtic's victory by hurling himself at a precise delivery from a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick, awarded after a needless challenge by Danny Swanson on Samaras.
"I thought we were magnificent again today," said Neil Lennon. "I seem to be saying that every week but that's because it's true.
"I know we had a wee bit of help with the deflections for the first two goals, but on the other hand we were in control throughout the first half." (© Daily telegraph, London)