CELTIC’S efforts to build up sustained momentum in pursuit of a fifth consecutive title stalled on a night when Hamilton Accies atoned for the 8-1 drubbing inflicted upon them by the Scottish champions five weeks earlier.
Leigh Griffiths scored his 33rd goal of the season to put Celtic in front with a penalty but, after the highly contentious dismissal of defender Dedryck Boyata just before half-time, the striker was unable to convert a second spot-kick after the break.
Hamilton substitute Eamonn Brophy, who netted their consolation in the Celtic Park defeat, scored a far more meaningful goal this time as he rescued a precious point for his team in their bid for top-flight survival.
The result leaves Ronny Deila’s side seven points clear at the top of the table, having played a game more than challengers Aberdeen who face St Johnstone at Pittodrie today.
Accies manager Martin Canning could hardly be chastised for adopting a policy of containment in the early stages, given the humiliation he and his players suffered last month.
Yet, it was Accies who had the two clearest sightings of goal in the opening half hour.
The first effort on target came in the 15th minute when Mikey Devlin met Ali Crawford’s free-kick but could only send his header straight into the arms of Logan Bailly.
The Belgian goalkeeper, making only his fourth Celtic appearance as Craig Gordon was relegated to the bench because of concerns over a slight knee injury, should have been beaten two minutes later.
An error by Celtic captain Scott Brown allowed Carlton Morris to send Crawford racing clear on goal but the Accies midfielder’ lifted his shot over the top with the goal at his mercy.
The miss was fully punished when Celtic opened the scoring with a spot-kick which constituted their own first attempt on target. Scott Allan, finally making his first domestic start for Celtic after 14 substitute appearances, held the ball up well in the area and laid it off to Griffiths.
But quite why Dougie Imrie decided to challenge Griffiths from behind, when the striker was facing away from goal, even he will struggle to explain. It was an easy decision for the referee and Griffiths smashed the penalty low down the middle while Accies keeper Michael McGovern dived to his left.
The goal drew Accies out of their defensive shell and they threatened an equaliser two minutes later, Bailly having to move smartly off his line to block a close-range effort by Gramoz Kurtaj.
Before Celtic could settle on their lead, they were reduced to ten men by Boyata’s questionable dismissal.
There was grievance on two counts for Celtic as Morris appeared to start his run from an offside position before getting in front of Boyata who then got a touch on the ball as he slid in on the striker on the edge of the penalty area.
Deila responded by withdrawing attacking midfielder Kris Commons, replacing him with Charlie Mulgrew who joined Erik Sviatchenko in central defence.
While Hamilton saw much more of the ball from that point, Celtic should have doubled their advantage five minutes into the second half. Gary Mackay-Steven found himself with only McGovern to beat but shot tamely straight at the keeper. Then, Griffiths could not convert another penalty conceded in brainless fashion by Ziggy Gordon who blatantly hauled down Mikael Lustig in the box.
Griffiths struck the ball to McGovern’s left this time and the Northern Ireland international made a fine save.
Hamilton made the most of that reprieve as Brophy drew them level in the 73rd minute. The substitute had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he pounced on Celtic’s failure to clear a Crawford corner and thundered a right-foot shot high into the net from the edge of the penalty area.