Hibernian put a serious dent in Celtic’s aspirations of retaining their SPL crown with a 0-0 draw at Easter Road that leaves Rangers in pole position going into the final day of the season.
The result leaves Gordon Strachan's side two points adrift of their great rivals heading into the final weekend of the season.
Any fears that Rangers fans may have had of Hibernian going through the motions were soon laid to rest as Mixu Paatelainen’s side looked well organized as they looked to frustrate Strachan’s team at every opportunity.
It was Hibernian who almost broke the deadlock midway through the first half as Steven Fletcher’s acrobatic effort produced a fine save from Artur Boruc whose quick reactions denied the talented striker.
The plan by the Easter Road side worked as Celtic found it almost impossible to breach the Hibernian midfield and defense regardless of how they tried.
There was very little to separate the two teams and there was every reason to believe leading up to half-time that just one goal would settle the game, but could Celtic get the win they craved?
In truth, both cancelled each other out.
One chance that Celtic did create had Gary Caldwell flashing a header across the face of Yves Ma-Kalamby’s goal, who by this point in the game had very little to do, and apart from that the SPL champions did very little to threaten the Hibernian goal.
Right on the stroke of half-time Scott McDonald very nearly opened the scoring but his shot was turned away by Ma-Kalambay with a save that was of similar quality to that of his opposite number in the Celtic goal.
Without question, Celtic would have to up the tempo of their game in the second half if they wanted to take all three points from their final visit to the capital this season.
And that is exactly what happened as they looked sharper and it was fairly obvious Strachan had emphasized this during the break.
As much as Celtic stepped up their game, Hibernian did likewise in their defending although there were signs the change in tempo by Celtic was starting to bother the home side.
Greek striker Georgios Samaras found it tough against the likes of Rob Jones and Steven Thicot and was replaced just after the hour by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink who would present a more physical threat to the Hibernian central defenders.
Twice Derek Riordan got into decent positions, but his finishing let him down unlike Wednesday.
Within minutes of coming on Vennegoor of Hesselink almost opened the scoring but the Hibernian keeper took the ball off his head as he was about to pounce and once again Celtic were left wanting.
Celtic made another switch bringing on Shaun Maloney to replace Scott Brown who was struggling with an ankle problem, but would the introduction Maloney help Celtic find that elusive goal?
Ma-Kalambay then made another crucial stop, this time from Scott McDonald and again it was from close range leaving the visitors more than frustrated.
Time was running out with the tension reaching fever pitch and Vennegoor of Hesselink missed a superb chance right in front of goal where it looked harder to miss than score.
Hibernian were defending as though their lives depended on it and was this the end of Celtic’s hopes of claiming yet another SPL title?
Rob Jones was immense at the heart of the Hibs defense as he snubbed Celtic out at every conceivable opportunity and his performance was an inspiration for the rest of Paatelainen’s side.
Celtic can only now pray for a miracle on the final day of the season and hope results go their way which is the only way they will hang on to the SPL title.