Celtic eased some of the mounting pressure on boss Neil Lennon as they thrashed managerless Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership.
While their 10-in-a-row hopes are all but over, a commanding performance delivered their biggest win since September.
A Scott Brown header, a double from Odsonne Edouard and a late goal from Albian Ajeti sealed the points.
It brings Celtic within 20 points of Rangers with a game in hand.
For Kilmarnock, under interim manager James Fowler for the first time since Alex Dyer’s departure on Saturday, they suffered their fourth defeat in a row as they remain ninth in the table.
The Ayrshire club remain five points clear of bottom but having played two more games than Hamilton.
Both sides wanted a reaction. Kilmarnock had won just twice in 11 games and Dyer paid the price on Saturday. Lennon was still hanging on at Celtic, but one win in six has made his position increasingly unstable.
The start both sides made was encouraging. Celtic enjoyed the bulk of possession, and David Turnbull opened his body up and curled just wide. Yet, Kilmarnock repelled most of the pressure, and Chris Burke should maybe have done better when he met a long ball inside the box.
But Celtic’s pressure told when captain Brown bulleted a header in from a Turnbull corner kick and broke the deadlock.
Minutes later and Brown caught Aaron Tshibola with an elbow, though referee Kevin Clancy gave him the benefit of the doubt much to the chagrin of the Killie man.
Celtic continued to enjoy the lion’s share of the ball. Callum McGregor broke into the box but Zeno Ibsen Rossi made an outstanding tackle to deny him just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Burke fired over for Killie and Turnbull had a shot saved for Celtic.
Three times in as many minutes Edouard tried to manoeuvre his way through the Kilmarnock defence, but repeatedly ran into trouble. However, he found the back of the net when he squeezed a penalty into the bottom right hand corner after goalkeeper Colin Doyle was adjudged to have fouled Ajeti.
Kilmarnock thought they had pulled one back when Burke met a ball at the back post and appealed that his header had crossed the line, but goalkeeper Scott Bain just managed to get a foot to it.
That was the correct decision, but soon after Kilmarnock appeared to be on the wrong end of one when Edouard poked in a third after outpacing the defence, yet replays showed he may have strayed offside.
Ajeti made it four with his first goal since September when he held off Rossi and finished from close range.
Kilmarnock had two fine chances to pull one back late on. Rossi’s header was saved on the line, and Mitchell Pinnock drove a shot just past the post, but their miserable run continues.
Man of the match – Jonjoe Kenny
What did we learn?
Interim boss James Fowler called for his players to show they were a good side and were willing to fight for the jersey, and for much of the game they put up a decent fight. But, they allowed Celtic too much of the ball while too many players drifted out of the game, and Celtic picked them off with ease in the second half.
Jonjoe Kenny had a decent debut for Celtic, and look assured at right-back with some neat touches. It’s a win that, temporarily at least, eases the pressure on manager Neil Lennon.
What did they say?
Kilmarnock interim manager James Fowler: “There were parts of the performance we can be happy with, but if you lose four goals, you have to be honest enough to say defensively we weren’t good enough at times.
“Certainly, the second goal isn’t a penalty. When you speak to the fourth official and he says the referee and assistant are having a discussion, I think that tells its own story. Usually they know these things instantly. And the third – it looks really tight in terms of offside.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon: “I got the reaction I wanted. It was totally night and day from the performance at the weekend. We should kick on from this. I’m looking for far more consistency in the next few months.
“The league may be beyond us, but we’ve got a lot of big games to come, we’ve got a cup competition and we need to finish the season strongly for the supporters. If we play like that, it’ll take a good team to stop us now.”
Kilmarnock travel to St Mirren on Saturday (15:00), while Celtic are at home to Motherwell.
- 8DickerSubstituted forPierrickat 71′minutes
- 27TshibolaBooked at 36mins
- 29BurkeSubstituted forPinnockat 76′minutes
- 9OakleySubstituted forKabambaat 71′minutes
- 3TaylorSubstituted forLaxaltat 90′minutes
- 17ChristieSubstituted forElyounoussiat 70′minutes
- 14TurnbullSubstituted forJohnstonat 73′minutes
- 22EdouardSubstituted forKlimalaat 73′minutes
- Kevin Clancy
Match ends, Kilmarnock 0, Celtic 4.
Second Half ends, Kilmarnock 0, Celtic 4.
Attempt missed. Mitchell Pinnock (Kilmarnock) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Brandon Haunstrup.
Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Stephen Welsh.
Substitution, Celtic. Diego Laxalt replaces Greg Taylor.
Foul by Greg Taylor (Celtic).
Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Albian Ajeti (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Clévid Dikamona (Kilmarnock).
Attempt saved. Zeno Rossi (Kilmarnock) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Mitchell Pinnock with a cross.
Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Jonjoe Kenny.
Foul by Albian Ajeti (Celtic).
Clévid Dikamona (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Kilmarnock 0, Celtic 4. Albian Ajeti (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Scott Brown with a through ball.
Attempt missed. Mitchell Pinnock (Kilmarnock) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Alan Power (Kilmarnock).
Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Jonjoe Kenny.
Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Michael Johnston.
Attempt missed. Mitchell Pinnock (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left following a set piece situation.