Celtic 1 Dundee United 1
Celtic passed up the chance to leapfrog rivals Rangers to the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League by only taking a point from Dundee United in an enthralling game at Parkhead.
With the Ibrox side drawing 0-0 at Motherwell earlier in the day, a win of any sort would have taken Tony Mowbray’s side two points clear at the top.
Tannadice striker David Goodwillie drove the visitors in to the lead in the sixth minute to stun the home crowd.
When Parkhead striker Scott McDonald equalised in the 17th minute by heading in a Danny Fox free-kick from close range, it looked like Celtic would go on to complete their comeback but they came up against a United side who were well worth the point.
United midfielder Scott Robertson was sent off three minutes from the end after picking up the second of his two yellow cards for a foul on Celtic substitute Georgios Samaras.
And the visitors survived a late penalty claim when Tannadice defender Darren Dods looked to have handled inside the box but with no more goals the Hoops remain behind their Ibrox rivals on goal difference.
Mowbray tinkered with his tactics having McDonald supported through the middle by Scott Brown, with debutant Niall McGinn replacing suspended Aiden McGeady on the right flank and Shaun Maloney on the left.
However, it was the visitors who stormed in to a sixth-minute lead through striker Goodwillie with what was their first real attack.
Prince Buaben got the break of the ball in a tussle with Hoops’ skipper Gary Caldwell wide on the left, although there were claims of handball from the home support.
When the United midfielder’s cross came to the front of the six-yard box, Goodwillie took possession, turned inside Celtic’s Dutch defender Glenn Loovens and hammered a right-footed drive high in to the net past Artur Boruc.
Celtic struggled to get in to their stride but nerves were calmed somewhat in the 17th minute by McDonald after Dods had conceded a free-kick wide on the right by handling Brown’s attempted cross.
When Fox curled a fierce ball to the back post, the Australia international managed to evade United’s tall defenders to nod in from close range.
As the rejuvenated Parkhead side pressed, McGinn, growing in confidence, curled in an inviting low cross from the right which found no takers as it sped across United’s six-yard box and out for a goal kick.
The Taysiders held on with a fair measure of desperation as the Hoops changed their focus of attack from left to right, then through the middle.
United threatened for the first time since their goal in the 39th minute when Buaben robbed Landry N’Guemo in midfield before setting up Danny Cadamarteri inside the box but his angled-shot from 16 yards was well held by Boruc.
At the other end moments later, United’s back-tracking midfielder Danny Swanson did well to clear a Maloney cut-back before it found McDonald six yards from goal.
Craig Levein’s men had rallied by the time the interval arrived and they had a chance to regain the lead four minutes after the break. Goodwillie again left Loovens for dead inside the penalty area with a smart turn but Fox intervened by clearing for a corner before the United striker could get his shot away.
Celtic survived the corner but it was an indication that the Tannadice side were not going to settle for the point.
That attitude was reinforced in their 53rd minute counter attack when Swanson muscled his way past Crosas in the Celtic box and curled his shot past Boruc but fortunately for the Parkhead keeper, wide of the far post.
Sensing his side needed a boost Mowbray brought on Samaras for N’Guemo in the 58th minute and a minute later the Greece international headed Brown’s cross past United keeper Nicky Weaver only to see the goal controversially ruled offside. Moments later, with the Parkhead crowd charged up, McGinn flashed a drive inches past the far post from the right-hand side of the box.
In the 65th minute, after United defender Paul Dixon had been booked for a foul on McGinn 25 yard from goal, Weaver had to move smartly to his left to save from Fox’s free-kick which was heading for the top corner.
The Celtic support urged their side on in the closing stages but it was United who finished arguably the stronger side.
In the 81st minute it was Fox again who had to prevent Cadamarteri getting his shot in from 12 yards after the United striker had been set up by Goodwillie.
Three minutes from the end Robertson, booked earlier, picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Samaras.
Celtic defender Andreas Hinkel’s injury-time cross appeared to hit Dods on the hand as he tried to clear but referee Steve Conroy ignored claims for a penalty and the visitors escaped with a merited point.