Adam Idah’s penalty double saw Celtic survive a scare at Hibs as a late 2-1 win restored their three-point lead in the Scottish Premiership title race.
The on-loan striker opened his account from the spot early on in the first half as Alistair Johnston was carried off after Nectarios Trianis’ foul in the box.
The Hoops lacked quality in the final third as they looked to respond from dropping points in their last game at Aberdeen and Dylan Levitt’s stunning strike pulled the hosts level in the second half.
With the game heading for a draw, Joe Newell’s clumsy challenge on Celtic substitute Kyogo Furuhashi allowed Idah to confidently step up to dispatch his second penalty of the game.
Brendan Rodgers’ first win at Easter Road was a blow to Hibs, who are without a win in the Scottish Premiership since December 9.
Celtic leave it late to restore title lead
Hibs sat deep in the opening moments, but their attempts to frustrate Celtic came unstuck when Triantis was late on Johnston in an aerial challenge.
Referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot before the Canada international was carried off on a stretcher after about five minutes of treatment.
Anthony Ralston came on before Idah sent David Marshall the wrong way from the spot.
Hibs remained disciplined in their shape and they had a good chance midway through the half when Jordan Obita’s cross caused difficulties for Celtic, with both Joe Hart and Alexandro Bernabei unable to deal with it.
The ball broke invitingly for Elie Youan eight yards out but the wide player shot well over, although Walsh gave a corner after Liam Scales threw himself in front of the effort.
Hibernian lined up with a 4-5-1 formation, with Lewis Miller and Martin Boyle also back from the Asian Cup.
Nicolas Kuhn also made his first Celtic start in a new-look front three that featured Daizen Maeda following his return from the Qatar tournament, while Stephen Welsh replaced Maik Nawrocki in central defence.
Idah missed chances either side of the break but was flagged offside each time before being played in again by Matt O’Riley and being foiled by a good save from Marshall.
Hibs levelled after Newell’s free-kick was headed back to Levitt by Will Fish. The Wales midfielder showed excellent technique to guide his strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The home fans suddenly found their voice and Hart parried Myziane Maolida’s overhead kick before Boyle went flying in the box as he took on Bernabei. The winger was booked for diving.
The Celtic defence looked vulnerable and Rodgers brought on Maik Nawrocki for Stephen Welsh.
Ralston made two important blocks as Hibs continued to press before Rodgers brought on Kyogo Furuhashi in the 71st minute.
Celtic had a better spell but both Idah and Kyogo failed to get shots away after Bernabei’s cross ultimately set both of them up for good chances.
Miller missed a glorious chance for Hibs when he sent Newell’s deep cross beyond the far post and Fish then turned on the edge of the box and shot just wide.
The game was on a knife edge but it went Celtic’s way as Idah again sent Marshall the wrong way.
Montgomery: We deserved to win the game
Hibs head coach Nick Montgomery was left frustrated by some decisions:
“I thought we probably deserved to win the game.
“I’ve seen some of the incidents and I’m just really disappointed.
“For the first penalty, they’ve both gone to win the header and if that happens anywhere else on the pitch, he stops the game and possibly just gets treatment for the players and maybe it’s a drop ball.
“The second one, I don’t think anyone including the Celtic players thought it was a penalty then he goes to VAR.
“I have seen Martin Boyle’s penalty [claim] and I think if someone calls him over to look at that, there’s contact. He’s come from behind and he’s caught him on his thigh.
“It doesn’t matter how he’s fallen down, if he goes over to look at that on the monitor it’s a penalty.
“That’s probably the one I’m most disappointed with.
“I’m so proud of the boys’ effort, I thought that was a real team performance.”
Rodgers: An important win, but we need to be better
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is looking for improvement after a huge win at Easter Road:
“We were never going to win the league or become champions tonight by winning or losing the league if we lost, but it was certainly a very important win for us.
“Adam for his first start, he’s handled the pressure tremendously well and he’s won us the game.
“He’s scored penalties at the highest level for the Republic of Ireland so there’s no doubting Adam’s quality and his mindset is to come here and do really well.
“I didn’t think we were creative enough, that’s my honest feeling on it. We had good periods on the ball in the first half but just lacked that bit of cutting edge.
“Second half we probably created our own problems, but the mentality of the team was to keep going and that’s why they’re champions.
“There’s still a long way to go, but there’s psychology this time. There’s an inner game as well as well as the game on the field.
“We have to be much better on the ball in certain moments.”
The attention now turns to the Scottish Cup fifth round this weekend.
Hibs are away to Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. Kick-off 3pm.
It is an all-Scottish Premiership tie for Celtic as they travel to St Mirren on Sunday. Kick-off 2pm.