Kilmarnock 2 Celtic 4
Alan Thompson and John Hartson scored two goals each as Celtic twice came from behind at Kilmarnock where the home supporters were again left incensed by referee Mike McCurry.
Gary McDonald opened the scoring for the home side in the 14th minute but, just 60 seconds later, Hartson had equalised for the Bank of Scotland Premier League champions.
But the Ayrshire side refused to let their heads drop and Gary Wales was on hand to grab a second in the 28th minute.
Thompson hit a second equaliser for the Hoops eight minutes later before the match official earned the wrath of the home crowd.
Killie had matched Celtic throughout the game but, when David Lilley deliberately handled the ball in the 41st minute, McCurry, who disallowed a Kris Boyd goal in the last meeting between the two clubs, showed him the red card to leave the home side with just 10 men.
From the resulting free-kick, Thompson put the Parkhead side in the lead to make the task even harder for Jim Jefferies’ team.
Hartson struck his second – and Celtic’s fourth – in the 70th minute.
Kilmarnock had been buoyed by last week’s win at Hibernian and were causing the visitors all kinds of problems in defence early on.
Celtic would have gone behind after just six minutes but for the heroics of teenage goalkeeper David Marshall, who was called into the Scotland senior squad on Friday.
Rhian Dodds chipped the ball over the top and in-form striker Boyd steadied himself to fire low on goal but the 19-year-old made a vital block with his legs.
Marshall made another spectacular save to deny Kilmarnock the lead in the 13th minute.
James Fowler fired the ball to the back post and Stephen Murray’s header appeared to be looping over the keeper but he threw himself in the air to tip the ball over.
But Marshall was badly let down by his defence from the resulting corner as McDonald arrived at the near post to head Locke’s cross into the net from close range just before the quarter-hour.
However, that lead lasted just one minute as Jackie McNamara’s long ball found Hartson.
The Welsh international held off the challenge of Lilley before sliding a right-foot shot in off the upright.
The Welshman peeled off his marker in the 22nd minute to accept McNamara’s cut-back from the by-line but shot straight at Alan Combe from six yards.
The home fans had not forgotten that referee McCurry ruled out a goal for them as the Glasgow giants clinched the SPL championship with a 1-0 at Rugby Park last season.
And they were calling for a penalty in the 25th minute as a Gary Locke cross caused confusion in the box but it was unclear to see where the infringement was.
They were celebrating again though in the 28th minute as a pulsating encounter swung Kilmarnock’s way again.
Stanislav Varga and Joos Valgaeren were all over the place as Boyd did well to find Dodds and his burst forward and shot was pushed out by Marshall, but only into the path of Wales, who kept his composure to knock the ball home.
But, again, Celtic refused to lie down and pulled themselves back on level terms with a simple but effective goal in the 36th minute.
Aiden McGeady found Sutton in the Kilmarnock half and he put the ball into the path of Thompson, who rounded the on-rushing Combe before firing into the back of the net.
But the game was turned upside down by the match official four minutes before the break, when Lilley was sent off for handling the ball outside the box and preventing Sutton from getting through on goal.
The home crowd vented their anger and then, to make matters worse, Thompson picked up the ball and fired a left-foot free-kick through the wall and past Combe.
Jefferies brought Gordon Greer on for Murray at the break but the late first-half incident ended what had been a thoroughly entertaining 45 minutes.
Boyd, who scored their winner last week, again looked their most dangerous player and he had to go it alone in the 52nd minute but Marshall saved his low effort.
The Kilmarnock boss made another change on the hour with Shaun Dillon replacing Garry Hay and, to their credit, the home side powered forward looking for the equaliser.
But the home side’s efforts were in vain as Hartson leapt above their defence to plant a bullet header, from Thompson’s cross, past a rooted Combe and into the top corner.
That came just after Henri Camara had been introduced for McGeady and both sides made more substitutions with the game effectively over.