Celtic may have been floored by the end of a run of knock-out successes in Champions League qualifiers this week but clumsily danced around a similar domestic dunt befalling them at Firhill.
The Betfred Cup holders had anxious moments en route to a 19th straight cup victory on the home front under Brendan Rodgers.
An unlikely and unexpected equaliser in the 73rd minute from Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo allowed for notions that their terrible week could turn catastrophic.
In the moments that followed, the swirl of the Athens defeat, the Dedryck Boyata dissing of that qualifier and back-to-back defeats handed out by AEK and Hearts looked like they just might be whipped into a storm.
Yet for all that, a rejigged Celtic team – with six players changed from their Greek exit – had sluggishly sought to negotiate the tie, and for all that Alan Archibald’s now Championship-residers had stuck with their visitors through their patterned play, Rodgers’ men conjured up a response that showed their mettle and ensured they would not succumb to three straight losses for the first time in 12 years.
Two goals in three minutes ensured the double-treble winners’ place in the quarter-finals, with Cristiano Gamboa the architect of both. The Costa Rican could consider himself unfortunate not to feature in Athens with the energy levels of Mikael Lustig currently appearing compromised.
Gamboa showed his worth as an attacking full-back by twice haring down the right channel.
His first raid was central to Celtic restoring their lead five minutes after it had been surrendered, substitute Moussa Dembele on hand to knee into the net his driven-in cross.
In the 80th minute the tie was officially over when another lung-bursting run from Gamboa to meet a through ball from substitute James Forrest allowed him to deliver a cut-back from the byline that Tom Rogic met airborne to volley beyond Cammy Bell.
“‘Their substitutes were stronger than ours, I think that showed,” said Archibald afterwards. “But we probably gave them a wee fright there.”
It was Thistle’s own substitute, in the form of 17-year-old Aidan Fitzpatrick that had given the home side hope, though, when he wriggled free of Kristoffer Ajer and slipped in Mbuyi-Mutombo down the right, allowing the forward to drill an exquisite angled shot into the far corner.
Archibald believes the “silver-lining” in the club’s demotion could be that it will allow his youngsters the opportunities to build their careers.
In that respect, the cup exit was a reverse he said he would take over any loss in the Championship.
The encounter, which Rodgers said had brought an indifferent performance from his “too passive” team, had looked like it could prove an actively memorable one for Leigh Griffiths.
On opening the scoring in the 18th minute by meeting a Scott Sinclair centre and slamming in a low effort that beat Bell via a failed defensive block, the striker moved on to 99 goals for Celtic.
It came four months after he had made it to the 98-mark in his bid to become the first goalscoring centurion at the club since John Hartson hit that mark in 2005.
“I’ll take any goal regardless of whether it’s a tap-in or a 30-yard screamer,” Griffiths said, his quest now rolling into Thursday’s
Europa League play-off away to Suduva.
“I got the goal early for 99 and was thinking if I get one more chance I’ll stick it away but it wasn’t to be. But it’s driving me on to get the 100, so I’m looking forward to Thursday and if I get a chance I’m confident I’ll
take it. Hopefully I’ll get there eventually.”