There was merit in aspects of the team's display, and they were only out of contention after Celtic scored twice in the final three minutes, but the most hardened dissenters amongst the home support did not even come into the ground.
Around 200 Kilmarnock fans protested against the chairman, Michael Johnston, outside Rugby Park before kick-off. The latest grievance was a badly-handled ticket offer that saw some Celtic season ticket-holders pay less to attend the game than home fans, but in general there is a rising mood against Johnston.
"Their leaders advocate withholding revenue from the club, forcing an insolvency event to try to achieve their objective," the chairman said in a radio interview before the game.
Certainly, the occasion was muted. "What are you filming," one Kilmarnock fan asked as his neighbour in the main stand scanned his mobile phone around the stadium. "Empty seats?"
The home players seemed unperturbed by the mood of insurrection around the club. "We've just got to concentrate on the football," said Kilmarnock manager Allan Johnston. "It's easy to make excuses, but it shouldn't affect the players."
With Michael Gardyne finding pockets of space to drop into, before using his pace and trickery to stretch the Celtic defence, the home side were more prominent and the visitors unable to take command of the game. That did not prevent them from breaching the Kilmarnock defence, however.
Having seemed sure-footed, the home side suffered a bout of ruinous indecision. Craig Samson could either have stayed on his line or rushed out to catch Georgios Samaras's cross, but wavered between the two and then anxiously pushed the ball out instead. It fell to Kris Commons, who volleyed into the net. "We didn't start well," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon. "We were sloppy, it was pedestrian, it looked like we were out for an easy-osy afternoon, but after the first goal the reaction was superb."
Kilmarnock might have dwelled upon their misfortune. There was no spirited response, or even resolve, when Celtic attacked again five minutes later, but the haplessness continued. Adam Matthews sent a cross into the penalty area that Darren Barr and Commons challenged for, only to send the ball spinning to Samaras. The Greek striker rifled a volley into the far corner of the net, with power and precision.
Samaras was enthused and drove at the heart of the Kilmarnock defence moments later. With opponents funnelling backwards, he took advantage of their panic by playing a one-two with Commons before steering the ball beyond Samson. "We conceded really cheap goals," said Johnston. "But it was a great comeback. That shows our spirit."
In despair, Kilmarnock rediscovered their intent, with much of it gathering again around Gardyne. The attacker earned a free-kick in a dangerous area 22 yards out when he was knocked over by Virgil van Dijk and Sammy Clingan struck a forceful effort beyond Fraser Forster from the set-piece.
Gardyne was also pivotal just before the interval, when his one-two with Sean Clohessy resulted in the full-back clubbing a low shot beyond Forster. "We got lackadaisical at the back," Lennon said. "I wasn't best pleased at half-time."
Chiding his players turned out to be effective, since Celtic were mostly in control after the break. Kilmarnock were never overwhelmed, but they barely troubled Celtic either. Teemu Pukki hit the bar from long range, but it wasn't until the closing minutes that Celtic made certain of victory. Samaras completed his hat-trick with a header from Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick then Amido Balde, without ever having the ball fully under control, ran through and finished crisply past Samson.
"It sums up where he is at the moment," said Lennon. "He's sloppy at times with the ball, it's all a bit awkward. We know he's got talent and we know he's a bit raw, but he scored a great goal."
Celtic deserved their win, but only served up patches of accomplishment. Even after a hat-trick, Samaras could also still be enigmatic. "They're just goals," he said. "What's the point in scoring three if you don't win the trophy at the end of the season?"