Falkirk 1 Celtic 0
Falkirk ended their eight-game losing run in glorious style to delay Celtic’s Bank of Scotland Premier League title celebrations still further.
Steven Thomson’s first goal of the season in the 16th minute settled a dramatic match which featured seven yellow cards and two red.
During an action-packed first half, Celtic striker Craig Beattie saw a weak penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel before Thomson struck.
Hoops defender Stephen McManus and Bairns forward Carl Finnigan then clashed to be handed red cards seven minutes from half-time.
Gordon Strachan’s men battled bravely for an equaliser but instead slumped to a third straight defeat as John Hughes’ outfit celebrated their first win since January 13.
Strachan made three changes from the team that lost to Rangers. Paul Hartley returned after suspension, with Jiri Jarosik and Beattie also starting.
Aiden McGeady and Evander Sno dropped to the bench, with injury victim Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink absent.
Falkirk included Dean Holden after his red card at Hibs was reduced to a caution, while Patrick Cregg was back after a ban beside the restored Alan Gow.
In blustery conditions, Falkirk passed up a great opportunity to claim a third-minute opener. A glorious passing move eventually saw Russell Latapy play in the on-rushing Finnigan, but the former Newcastle reserve skewed his shot wide.
Celtic responded with Shunsuke Nakamura seeing a 18-yard drive deflected past the post.
As the hectic start continued, there was controversy on six minutes when referee John Underhill awarded Celtic a penalty.
Hartley’s neat pass behind the Falkirk defence allowed Beattie to ghost in and Holden was adjudged to have felled the forward despite fierce home protests the Englishman had played the ball.
Justice appeared to have been done when on-loan Schmeichel smothered Beattie’s weak spot-kick.
On nine minutes, Beattie again went down in the box, this time under a challenge from Darren Barr, but Underhill waved away perhaps justified claims.
In a compelling contest, Hartley was then unlucky to see his curling cross from the left hit the far post and rebound back into Schmeichel’s grateful arms.
However, it was the Bairns who grabbed a 16th-minute lead. Finnigan’s excellent cross from the right picked out Thomson who directed a downward header into the bottom left-hand corner past Artur Boruc.
Celtic, clearly stung by the goal, sought a quick response and Holden did brilliantly to block a goal-bound effort from Beattie. On 23 minutes, Lee Naylor then fizzed a left-footed drive just wide.
Holden and Gow then had opportunities at the other end but could not capitalise.
After 38 minutes, the game exploded to life again when both teams were dramatically reduced to 10 men.
A clash between Finnigan and Stephen McManus on the edge of the Celtic penalty area sparked a mass melee, with Underhill opting to first send off the visiting centre-half and then Finnigan.
The two had squared up angrily head-to-head, with Finnigan adjudged to have swung an elbow before appearing to be pushed away by McManus.
With the match becoming stretched, Kenny Miller raced in on goal but Barr superbly blocked his net-bound strike.
The Parkhead side had another penalty claim in the 55th minute when Cregg appeared to nudge into the back of influential Japanese playmaker Nakamura, but Underhill was unmoved.
Celtic were dominating possession and came close four minutes later when Nakamura released Beattie, before the Scotland striker saw his angled shot deflected into the side-netting by Kenny Milne.
Hartley’s header from Nakamura’s cross then drifted over.
But Falkirk were standing firm and looking menacing on the break, as Gow regularly threatened.
As the time ticked on to 70 minutes, Nakamura tested Schmeichel with a 20-yard shot but the Dane was equal to it.
Home substitute Moutinho had an excellent chance to wrap up the points when a loose ball fell to him 10 yards from goal but the Portuguese striker’s left-footed shot lacked power and direction.
Hartley became the seventh player to be booked before the midfielder’s right-wing cross saw Naylor head wide.
Moutinho could again have sealed it in stoppage time but his drive was straight at Boruc.