The games that won Celtic a 12th title in 13 years

For a while on Tuesday, it looked like Celtic would not have to leave to house to clinch the Scottish Premiership title for a third consecutive season.

Rangers were two down to Dundee. That they came back to win 5-2 only bought them a 24-hour reprieve.

Celtic's thumping win at Kilmarnock officially secured the championship flag for Brendan Rodgers side.

But, in reality, other matches played a far more significant role in deciding who would lift the trophy. Matches such as these...

Rangers 0-1 Celtic - 3 September

Kyogo Furuhashi scores for Celtic against Rangers
A solitary goal was enough for Celtic at Ibrox in September [SNS]

In early September, there was disquiet at Celtic after an early season goalless draw at home to St Johnstone.

A trip to Ibrox to face Michael Beale's new-look Rangers was not make or break as such but certainly important in the landscape of the season.

Like all of this season's derbies, there would be no away fans. But despite their lack of backing, Celtic found a way to win.

The visitors survived an early scare when VAR intervened to disallow a Kemar Roofe goal and the first half ended with Kyogo Furuhashi crashing in a crucial volley.

Rangers huffed and puffed in the second half but Celtic left with the three points and their unbeaten league record intact.

Celtic 2-1 Rangers - 30 December

Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates after scoring for Celtic against Rangers
Kyogo was at it again in the closing stages of 2023 [SNS]

Fast forward to late December.

Celtic had been beaten in consecutive matches earlier in the month and Rangers were building up a head of steam under Beale's replacement, Philippe Clement.

The Belgian was still unbeaten and had claimed the League Cup. The visitors were in confident mood, albeit were five points back with two games in hand.

A first-half Paulo Bernardo goal settled any Celtic nerves and an outstanding Kyogo strike put the hosts well in control.

A late James Tavernier free-kick gave Rangers hope after they had lost Leon Balogun to a red card but an equaliser proved elusive.

With another win in their next game against St Mirren, Rodgers' side went into the winter break comfortably top of the table.

Motherwell 1-3 Celtic - 25 February

Adam Idah scores for Celtic against Motherwell
Adam Idah (far right) turned around Celtic's fortunes at Fir Park [SNS]

At half-time at Fir Park, Celtic were a goal down and at risk of falling five points behind Rangers, who had gone top in earlier in the month.

Enter Adam Idah. The on-loan Norwich City forward's two goals - the second four minutes into stoppage time - got Celtic's title charge back on track and an even later Luis Palma strike made sure of victory.

The second-half performance also seemed to rejuvenate Celtic after dropped points against Kilmarnock and Aberdeen in previous weeks.

There was still work to do, though.

Celtic 3-0 St Mirren - 13 April

Reo Hatate scores for Celtic against St Mirren
Reo Hatate broke the deadlock against St Mirren [SNS]

This win perhaps did not seem particularly significant at the time, but it would prove to be critical.

Much like the Fir Park visit, Celtic took 45 minutes to get going but Reo Hatate, Kyogo and Idah put St Mirren away and put Rodgers' men four points clear.

Rangers had two games in hand but lost the first of those the following day at Ross County, then couldn't find a way through in a 0-0 draw at Dundee days later.

Celtic had the title initiative and they weren't for giving it up.

Celtic 2-1 Rangers - 11 May

Rangers' John Lundstram scores an own goal in a match against Celtic
John Lundstram had an eventful derby in mid-May [SNS]

Typically, winning the Scottish title comes down in large part to how the Old Firm games go.

Going into this one, Celtic had already registered seven points from nine and it became 10 from 12 with this win.

Matt O'Riley's opener and John Lundstram's own goal were followed by Cyriel Dessers' header. Lundstram's red card and O'Riley's missed penalty only added to the drama as Celtic went six clear with two to play.

Whatever happens on Saturday, they will finish with a winning margin of fewer than 10, emphasising just how important their derby record has been.

And it bodes well for their Scottish Cup defence, with finalists Rangers standing between Rodgers' side and a domestic double.