Five goals, three penalties and a brief touchline spat with Rangers fullback Nicola Docherty; Elena Sadiku’s first game in charge at Celtic might not have got the outcome she wanted but it will live long in the memory.
It will sting for a while, though, this defeat that came via a 95th minute Rio Hardy penalty after the normally reliable Caitlin Hayes had tugged the shirt of the Rangers striker.
Rangers had been the more dominant of the teams for large chunks of this game but it was Celtic who looked as though they might inflict Jo Potter’s first defeat of the season. Chloe Craig gave them the lead from the spot before the game seesawed back in Rangers’ favour with Kathy Hill and Kirsty MacLean putting them in front.
Craig offered Celtic a reprieve with her second penalty of the night in the final minute of regulation time. As the tie looked set for extra-time and penalties, Hardy decided it without the hullabaloo of the extra half hour and the lottery of shared spot-kicks as she kept her cool to find the bag of the net.
Rangers started immediate energy and purpose as they sought to claim an early marker with some of the Celtic defending in those opening exchanges of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants variety.
It was always going to be a difficult game for new manager Sadiku to step into given that she had just five days to get to introduce herself to her squad and prepare for this semi-final meeting. She was fairly non-stop on the touchline as she applauded and cajoled, kicking every ball.
Rangers were the more menacing of the teams in the early stages yet it was Celtic who could have claimed the opener.
Amy Gallacher’s free-kick was punched by Gers keeper Vic Esson but landed at the feet of Kelly Clark at the edge of the box. The Celtic captain’s lob caught Esson in no-man’s land but Rangers defender Kathy Hill was alert to the danger as she cleared off the line.
Rachael Rowe was a constant nuisance as she caused all manner of issues for Celtic. She had a series of long-range efforts, one of which came off the woodwork, as she looked to find a way through.
Still, Celtic could have taken the lead before the break. A Gallacher cross was deflected straight to the feet of Paula Partido inside the box. Unmarked and in acres of space she somehow snatched at the chance and contrived to pull her effort wide.
The Ibrox side emerged from the interval looking for the opener but it was Celtic who claimed it.
With the ball judged to have come off the arm of Hill, Craig, the club’s longest serving player, stepped up to send Esson the wrong way.
Rangers sought to reply swiftly. Rio Hardy forced a double save from Daugherty before parity was restored.
Daugherty denied Hardy with a double save from close range but there was an inevitability about the leveller. It came through a scramble in the box with Celtic failing to properly clear their lines before Hill atoned for her earlier indiscretion as she forced the ball beyond the reach of Daugherty.
Rangers went for it. Hardy clever cutback for MacLean gave them the goal they craved as they took the lead for the first time in the tie.
It said something about Celtic’s resilience that they came back again. Tessel Middag caught Caitlin Hayes with Craig burying her second penalty of the night firmly into the bottom corner.
Hardy, though, gave Rangers the last laugh. As she outpaced Hayes, the Irish internationalist tugged her back with Hardy converting from the spot much to the delight of her euphoric team-mates.