Celtic delivered by far their most emphatic statement of intent yet in pursuit of a fourth consecutive domestic title as they crushed a wretched Hamilton Accies side who appear increasingly likely candidates for relegation.
Ronny Deila’s men had been largely indifferent on home soil in recent months but were simply irresistible on a night when they led 3-0 after just ten minutes and 5-0 by the break. Restoring a six-point lead over Aberdeen at the top of the Premiership was never in doubt.
Leigh Griffiths maintained his recent hot streak as he claimed the fourth hat-trick of his Celtic career, taking his tally for the current campaign to 27.
Hamilton could count themselves fortunate Celtic did not reach double figures as Martin Canning’s side narrowly remain above the relegation play-off spot. On the back of their recent Scottish Cup exit at Annan, these are worrying times for the Lanarkshire outfit.
From the moment Griffiths saw a netbound shot blocked by Lucas Tagliapietra inside the first minute, it was evident this was going to be a long and testing evening for the visitors. But few could have predicted just how tortuous it would prove for Canning’s men.
If the small band of travelling fans hoped their ship had been steadied by Saturday’s gritty goalless draw at St Johnstone, they were quickly as engulfed in despair as the beleaguered Accies defence were by Celtic’s relentless waves of attack.
The fourth minute opener set the tone for the champions’ merciless finishing and the hapless defending of the visitors. Stuart Armstrong’s free-kick from the left found its way to the unmarked Mikael Lustig at the far post, allowing Celtic’s stand-in skipper a simple close-range headed finish.
Gramoz Kurtaj briefly threatened some resistance for Hamilton when he dragged a shot wide of Craig Gordon’s right-hand post but it soon became a case of one-way traffic towards Michael McGovern at the other end.
The Accies keeper was helpless to prevent Celtic’s second goal in the ninth minute. Nir Bitton, returning from suspension, collected a short pass from Callum McGregor and thundered his eighth goal of the season into the roof of the net with a right-foot shot from around 30 yards.
McGovern was beaten again just a minute later, this time wrong-footed by a deflection off centre-half Michael Devlin which helped Tom Rogic’s left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area on its way.
Celtic were slicing their way through a shell-shocked Accies outfit at will with only a more successful block by Devlin preventing Gary Mackay-Steven adding to the tally.
Griffiths was conspicuous by his absence from the scoring spree at this stage but he put that to rights when he made it 4-0 in the 23rd minute. Ali Crawford lost possession in midfield and Mackay-Steven seized on the loose ball to drive purposefully through the middle.
He timed his pass to Griffiths perfectly and the striker guided a typically precise left-foot shot across McGovern and into the corner of the net from around eight yards.
Even Efe Ambrose fancied his chances of joining the fun, the defender scooping a shot over from close range when he really should have hit the target.
There was no sign of Celtic easing off and they grabbed number five in the 34th minute. It was inexcusably lame defending from Accies this time, standing off to allow Rogic as much time as he desired on the right to lay the ball on a plate for Griffiths who gratefully accepted the tap-in from a couple of yards.
Celtic made two changes at the start of the second half, Scott Allan and James Forrest replaced the injured Rogic and Jozo Simunovic. The arrival of two creative and attack-minded players was the last thing Accies needed.
The substitutes duly combined to make it 6-0 eight minutes after the restart. Forrest’s back-heel to Allan on the edge of the penalty area was returned into the Scotland winger’s path and he drove home a low shot.
Number seven arrived almost straight from the restart. Devlin was dispossessed 20 yards out by Griffiths who strolled through to complete his hat-trick with a neat lob over McGovern.
As Griffiths was replaced by Carlton Cole with 25 minutes still remaining, the record books were being checked for Celtic’s all-time record victory. But the 11-0 drubbing of Dundee in 1895 retains that status.
Hamilton substitute Eamonn Brophy snatched a consolation with a well-taken 73rd minute strike through Gordon’s legs, before the excellent McGregor fittingly had the last word for Celtic when he made it 8-1 in the 90th minute with a fine right-foot shot from 20 yards.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Ambrose, Simunovic (Forrest 46), Izaguirre; Bitton, McGregor; Mackay-Steven, Rogic (Allan 46), Armstrong; Griffiths (Cole 65). Subs not used: Bailly, Ciftci, Commons, Tierney.
Hamilton Accies: McGovern, Gordon, Devlin, Lucas, Kurakins; MacKinnon, Docherty, Gillespie (Lyon 84), Kurtaj (Imrie 46); Crawford; D’Akol (Brophy 62). Subs not used: Martin, Morris, Tena, Nade.