Just how significant this defeat at Rugby Park proves to be over the course of the season will reveal itself across the coming months but this was a display that highlighted so many of Celtic’s deficiencies.
Brendan Rodgers resisted the chance post-match to suggest Celtic need a big January transfer window but the evidence would speak for itself. They retain a five point lead at the top of the table but Rangers have a game in hand still to play.
Celtic’s tepid defence struggled to cope with the second-half aggression of a bullish Kilmarnock side who overturned Matt O’Riley’s first-half goal via Brad Lyons who forced the ineffective Nat Phillips into an own-goal before Matty Kennedy won them the game and the points with three minutes of regulation time to play. Quite the time for Kennedy to score his first goal for Kilmarnock.
Derek McInnes was exasperated at the eight minutes of added time but in truth Celtic looked like they could have played all afternoon and still not found a goal.
They were sloppy defensively and visibly wobbled when Kilmarnock came out after the break with the bit between their teeth. O’Riley drew an effort wide in the second period and substitute Kyogo brought out a save from Will Dennis but Celtic were toothless in the final third.
There was no Cameron Carter-Vickers for Celtic with Rodgers unwilling to risk him on Killie’s plastic surface – and Celtic looked considerably weakened without him.
Celtic inevitably dominated the opening stages with Will Dennis muddying his gloves from the off. The stopper was called into action to block a Matt O’Riley effort before Oh and Nat Phillips had half chances to test him.
He pulled off the best of the bunch just before the half hour mark when he denied Oh before then blocking Luis Palma’s volley with his legs.
Not that Kilmarnock were without a threat of their own. For all that Celtic dominated, it was the hosts who ought to have scored. Danny Armstrong’s whacked the top of Joe Hart’s crossbar from close range after meeting Matty Kennedy’s cross into the box.
Celtic’s response was immediate. Callum McGregor took aim from just inside the box that drew a save from Dennis but O’Riley was on hand to lash the rebound high into the net.
Kilmarnock, though, came close to restoring parity. Hart denied Armstrong from close range but while it looked certain that Corrie Ndaba would level, Alistair Johnston on the deck and with his back to play, somehow threw himself to block the shot on the line and clear it.
Killie sustained their pressure after the restart with Robbie Deas heading inches wide of the target while Hart had to deny Ndaba at the back post.
It would have been difficult to argue that Kilmarnock did not deserve their leveller when it came. Brad Lyons drilled a low ball into the Celtic box with Phillips sliding in to take the ball into his own bottom corner.
Rodgers took off Took Iwata and went with Kyogo and Oh but still it was Killie who looked the more menacing. They sustained their pressure and got their reward.
Armstrong, who caused problems for Celtic all day, played in Kennedy with Hart seeming to get a hand to the effort which he could not keep out.
With the title race wide open it remains now to be seen what kind of reaction Celtic find.