Celtic 2 Hamilton 0
A Kris Commons double against Hamilton at Parkhead put Celtic eight points clear of Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
The Hoops had struggled for much of the first half until four minutes from the break when the Scotland midfielder broke the monotony by volleying in from 25 yards after being set up by skipper Scott Brown.
Commons capitalised on a shocking mistake by Accies defender David Elebert early in the second half to double his tally and put the pressure on to Rangers who have three games in hand ahead of their trip to St Mirren on Sunday.
While Celtic were not at their best they still had way too much for the bottom club who were neat and tidy at times but who lacked any real conviction.
Fraser Forster returned from suspension to take over from Lukasz Zaluska in the Celtic goal while striker Gary Hooper dropped out altogether to be replaced by Anthony Stokes.
Accies showed two changes to the side which lost at home to Hibernian in midweek.
Nigel Hasselbaink and Jim McAlister came in for Damian Casalinuovo and Mickael Antoine-Curier, with the latter dropping to the bench.
Team news, though, was overshadowed by the attention on Hoops boss Neil Lennon who began a four-match touchline ban.
The Irishman had been given 24-hour surveillance at his home after a suspicious package addressed to him was intercepted.
The incident came in the wake of the controversial midweek Old Firm Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Celtic Park which ended with Lennon clashing with Rangers assistant Ally McCoist after the 1-0 home win which saw three visiting players sent off.
Lennon took his seat in the stand just before kick-off and his name was chanted by the fans at the start of the game.
With less than 30 seconds gone Accies defender Simon Mensing almost sliced the ball in to his own goal from 10 yards as he blocked a cross from Brown.
After the mayhem of Wednesday, it was a low-key start in comparison but in the 15th minute Hoops striker Georgios Samaras headed a Commons’ corner from the right past the far post.
Some of Celtic’s passing in the midfield was sloppy as they struggled to raise the tempo.
That slackness allowed Hamilton to gain confidence and they edged forward.
After a decent passage of play midfielder Mark Carrington had a shot from distance deflected for a corner, from which Mark McLaughlin’s header from Dougie Imrie’s cross caused some panic and the SPL leaders were happy to concede another corner which came to nothing.
Celtic slowly came to life and in the 28th minute Stokes should have done better with Charlie Mulgrew’s deep cross to the back post but the Irishman cleared the bar with his volley.
In the 38th minute the tireless Hoops’ left-back Emilio Izaguirre raced on to a Stokes pass to flash the ball across the Hamilton six-yard box but Samaras could not get on the end of it.
It was a slog for the home side but in the 41st minute Commons lit up the match with a wonderful goal.
Ki Sung-yeung’s corner was cleared away only to Brown who set the former Derby County player up 25 yards from goal and he sent a left-footed volley high past Tomas Cerny.
Norwegian stopper Thomas Rogne replaced Daniel Majstorovic at the heart of the Celtic defence for the start of the second half while for Accies, David Hopkirk came on for Hasselbaink.
The home side had a decent chance five minutes in the second half when a raking 60-yard pass from Stokes picked out Commons running down the right.
The former Derby player got his shot away from inside the box but New Douglas Park midfielder Dougie Imrie had tracked back and blocked for a corner, which again came to nothing.
But all of Accies’ hard work was undone in the 52nd minute when defender Elebert took a pass from Mensing and passed the ball across his own box straight to Commons who, with some confidence, curled a left-footed shot past Cerny.
The contest was effectively over and it look like becoming an afternoon for Celtic to improve their goals for tally.
In the 70th minute Samaras failed to get on the end of a Mark Wilson cross which sped across Cerny, moments before Accies midfielder Gary McDonald clashed with Beram Kayal to have the home fans screaming in rage.
The game petered out and the Hoops’ crowd slipped away, safe in the knowledge that another step towards the title had been taken with minimum fuss.