Celtic welcomed Rangers to Parkhead on Sunday knowing that the outcome of this game would be crucial to deciding the winner of the SPL.
Rangers came into the game 5 points behind their opposition with 3 games in hand.
They welcomed back striker Nikica Jelovic after he was ineligible for the Europa League matchup with Sporting Lisbon on Thursday night. Celtic made just one change from their last game against Dundee United drafting in Georgios Samaras to replace Anthony Stokes upfront.
Celtic: Foster, Wilson, Majstorovic, Mulgrew, Izaguirre, Brown, Kayal, Ledley, Commons, Samaras, Hooper. Subs: Zaluska, Juarez, Stokes, Ki, McCourt, Rogne, Forrest.
Rangers: McGregor, Whittaker, Weir, Bougherra, Papac, Davis, Diouf, Bartley, Edu, Naismith, Jelavic. Subs: Alexander, Fleck, Lafferty, Foster, Healy, Weiss, Hutton.
Georgios Samaras' presence in the starting lineup was sure to cause consternation in the Rangers' camp but it was another striker that the men Blue would have to deal with in the first half.
Within 3 minutes of kickoff, we were quickly reminded that this game is one of the fiercest derbies in football as Kyle Bartley was lucky to only receive a yellow card for a terrible challenge on Scott Brown.
A back and forth game ensued until a moment of magic gave Celtic the edge. Prolific striker Gary Hooper collected the ball from Kris Commons with a wonderful first touch that left Weir for dead before slipping the ball past Alan McGregor in the Rangers goal. It was Hooper's 12th goal in 16 SPL games.
After a scrappy ten minutes Hooper had doubled his tally and put Celtic 2-0 ahead. After Rangers lost possession in Celtic territory Georgios Samaras played a good ball down the left flank to Izaguirre down the left flank. Izaguirre crossed expertly to the arriving Hooper who knocked the ball past the hapless McGregor.
A minor scuffle broke out in the minute after the goal which resulted in yellow cards for Beram Kayal of Celtic and El Hadji Diouf of Rangers. Diouf's reputation and the nature of this game resulted in the bookings as their wasn't much in it.
Celtic looked to have their tails up but Rangers striker Jelavic was lively and was getting himself involved often.
There were few real chances to speak of before the half but Celtic definitely had the better of the game as Samaras, Commons and Ledley were all featuring prominently.
The Rangers' fightback didn't rear it's head before the half and they didn't come out of the break differently. Celtic nearly had the third five minutes into the second half when McGregor fluffed a cross to Scott Brown who's header was cleared off the line.
Celtic never looked under pressure and brought the game to an end as a contest on 69 minutes.
A poor game from Alan McGregor was compounded by Kris Commons' swerving shot that he should have easily stopped but instead allowed it to ripple the net. Gary Hooper played the ball to Commons who skipped past Bougherra on the edge of the box before lashing his shot at goal.
Jelavic spurned two opportunities after Majstorovic got away with what appeared to be a blatant penalty against the Celtic man which showed that it just wasn't to be Rangers' day.
Gary Hooper was given a standing ovation when he was taken off 1 goal shy of scoring the first old firm hat trick for 45 years before Celtic fans sang out the final minutes of the biggest old firm victory since 2007.
Celtic 3-0 Rangers.