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Celtic took a massive step towards retaining their cinch Premiership title as a thrilling 3-2 Old Firm derby victory saw them move 12 points clear of nearest rivals Rangers.

Michael Beale got the strong start to the game he had wanted from his Rangers side and they were perhaps unlucky to see an Alfredo Morelos ‘goal’ chalked off for an infringement, but they found themselves behind after 26 minutes through a close-range finish from Japan striker Kyogo Furuhashi.

Ibrox skipper James Tavernier levelled just before the break with a stunning free-kick, met with total silence as no away fans were present, but Furuhashi took advantage of a Ben Davies mistake in the 62nd minute to grab his second.

Another calamitous error by fellow Ibrox defender John Souttar, starting for only the second time this season, allowed Portuguese winger Jota to score a simple third in the 73rd minute before Tavernier reduced the deficit with a header to ensure a tension-filled end to the match.

It was a first defeat in the league for Beale since he became manager and it will see the title remain in the east end of Glasgow, barring the most unlikely of collapses.

Beale suffered a major blow with the absence of defender Connor Goldson with a hip injury, his place taken by Souttar.

Belgian midfielder Nicolas Raskin returned to the Gers’ midfield following a thigh injury while Celtic duo Greg Taylor and Aaron Mooy were declared fit after knocks.

Celtic v Rangers – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park
Kyogo Furuhashi (right) celebrates scoring Celtic’s second goal (Malcolm Mackenzie/PA)

With no away fans in the stadium due to fan safety and security issues, there was a different type of atmosphere with 60,000 Celtic supporters backing their side.

Rangers pressed from the start with some success but Furuhashi had the ball in the net from an Alastair Johnston pass in the sixth minute – only to see an offside flag.

In the 12th minute, Celtic skipper Callum McGregor’s shot from distance was saved by namesake Allan, who then made a brilliant save from Jota’s left-footed drive.

From Rangers’ first corner in the 20th minute Morelos knocked Borna Barisic’s delivery in from six yards but was adjudged to have pushed Johnston by referee Kevin Clancy.

However, when Furuhashi turned and fired in Matt O’Riley’s cutback from eight yards, the home support erupted in the knowledge that this goal was a good one.

The tempo of the game increased further and Gers midfielder Malik Tillman’s drive escaped Joe Hart’s far post before Rangers keeper McGregor parried a long-distance effort from Jota.

But after O’Riley was booked for a foul on Tillman 25 yards from goal, Tavernier stepped up and curled the ball over the wall and past Hart with the ball going in off the crossbar – the only noise coming from the Rangers players and their bench.

Morelos missed a good chance at the start of the second half, his scuffed shot saved by Hart, and the visitors soon paid for their profligacy.

But Celtic’s second goal was down to Davies trying to keep the ball from going for a corner, his header on the by-line hitting Jota and falling to Furuhashi who rifled it low past McGregor.

Another defensive mistake proved costly.

When Souttar was short with a pass back to McGregor, Jota rounded the Gers keeper – who was slow to react – and squeezed the ball in from a tight angle.

It looked all over for Rangers, but Tavernier brought them back into the game when he headed in Barisic’s cross five minutes later.

A flurry of substitutions made the final stages disjointed – Celtic’s Alexandro Bernabei missing a great chance when through on goal – but ultimately no damage was done and with only seven fixtures remaining, the title looks almost certain to remain at Parkhead.