Celtic booked their place in the Scottish Cup Final and took a huge step towards a domestic treble after a 1-0 win over Rangers in a breathless afternoon at a rain soaked Hampden.
It was a tale of two defences at the national stadium as Rangers back line switched off to allow Jota to score what would prove to be the winner late in the first half. At the other end of the park Cameron Carter-Vickers provided a dominant display to deny their rivals, as Michael Beale was left waiting for his first Old Firm victory as manager.
Amid the smoke of two pyrotechnic displays from either set of fans before kick off, there was a vital match to be played as Rangers looked to defend their Scottish Cup from the Ange Postecoglou juggernaut chasing a trio of trophies.
Michael Beale was able to call upon defensive stalwart Connor Goldson who returned from injury along with Ryan Kent. For Celtic meanwhile they welcomed back Reo Hatate and Jota after recent lay offs.
It was frenetic start to proceedings, encapsulated by Nicolas Raskin’s strike just seconds into the match which whizzed passed Joe Hart’s post from outside the area.
Allan McGregor was forced into action just before the half hour mark, providing two astute saves from first Alistair Johnston and then Jota as clear cut chances remained at a premium.
Rangers were dealt a blow ten minutes before the half as Malik Tillman was forced off with injury, injuring what appeared to be his hamstring when he went to ground in a tackle with Greg Taylor.
Jota almost had a glorious opening at Rangers’ far post when Daizen Maeda picked the winger out with a driven cross, the Portuguese’ touch let him down however as the ball squirmed away from danger.
The Celtic front man was to get on the scoresheet before the half was out as he capitalised on a calamity of errors in the Rangers defence. First Nicolas Raskin and then Borna Barisic switched off allowing a dangerous ball across the area for Jota to head beyond the helpless McGregor.
Celtic were handed an injury concern of their own as Alistair Johnston was replaced by Anthony Ralston just under ten minutes into the second period.
Rangers came the width of a post just after the hour mark when captain James Tavernier peeled his shot off the far post beyond Joe Hart. Fashion Sakala looked certain to bury the rebound before he lashed his shot into the side netting as Celtic survived the scare.
The Celtic backline remained impenetrable all afternoon and will look to repeat the feat in June when they face off against Championship Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their pursuit of a treble.