ON the final day of Premiership action before the World Cup break, there was perhaps the perfect illustration of why Celtic are already champions-elect with less than half of the season gone.

Rangers were in a hole earlier in the day against St Mirren, and though they managed to salvage a draw, they spilled yet more precious points. When Celtic found themselves in a spot of bother following a penalty opener for Ross County though, there was scarcely any doubt that Ange Postecoglou’s men would dig deep and find a way to turn it around.

Goals from David Turnbull and Sead Haksabanovic duly did the job, cancelling out David Cancola’s conversion from the spot just after the half-time interval, ensuring that Celtic can bask in the comfort of a nine-point lead as well as the Australian sunshine when they head down under next week.

As well as the acclaim given to their team for their efforts not only during this game, but in the season to date, the Celtic support gave referee David Munro both barrels after a series of decisions that infuriated them on top of the penalty he awarded to County. Supposing Kris Boyd had been wheeled out to do the half-time Paradise Windfall draw, there would still not have been a more unpopular figure inside Celtic Park.

In fairness, much of that ire has been building towards the officials in general, given Celtic have now conceded four spot-kicks since the introduction of VAR to Scottish football. The award on this occasion though seemed correct by the letter of what is, admittedly, a very dubious handball law.

Celtic started positively and were incensed as Matt O’Riley was adjudged to have fouled Victor Loturi in the act of pinching the ball from him in midfield before setting Kyogo through on goal. It looked soft, and it was a let-off for County.

Haksabanovic was looking lively, and his in-swinging cross was glanced just over by Kyogo as Celtic looked to establish an early lead, while Ross Laidlaw spilled a long-range effort from Cameron Carter-Vickers and was bailed out by Alex Iacovitti getting back to clear.

The high press was causing County all sorts of problems though, and after they gave possession away cheaply once more Celtic were in again, Kyogo racing through on Laidlaw but dragging his finish wide of the post.

Moritz Jenz was forced from the action to be replaced by Carl Starfelt after appearing to be struggling with his breathing, and County made it to the interval intact.

Their day would get better five minutes after the restart, as O’Riley was penalised for a handball in the area after having the ball fired off his arm by Callum Johnson at close range. There was little that the midfielder could have done about it, but given the handball guidance officials have been ordered to follow, there was also very little referee Munro could have done but to point to the spot.

Cancola stepped up and sent Joe Hart the wrong way to give the visitors a shock lead.

Celtic looked to respond immediately, and Laidlaw produced a stunning save from a Turnbull rocket before Anthony Ralston went down under the challenge of Johnson in the County area, Munro again angering the home fans by waving away their penalty appeals.

It was now a case of attack against defence as County packed their area, challenging Celtic to find a way through.

Just after the hour, they did just that, and it was the brilliance of Reo Hatate that unlocked the door.

The midfielder picked the ball up in the box and jinked his way through two desperate sliding lunges to get to the byline. He got his head up, picked out Turnbull, who calmly side footed home to drag the champions level.

Ange Postecoglou sent for the cavalry. With Jota, Liel Abada and Giorgos Giakoumakis stripped and ready for action, Haksabanovic perhaps sensed it was his last chance to make a lasting impression. And he did just that in some style to give Celtic the lead.

Again, Hatate was involved, playing a neat one-two with the Montenegrin winger just inside the box, with Haksabanovic shaping a beautiful passed finish around Laidlaw’s despairing dive and into the far bottom corner of the net.

Giakoumakis came close to settling any hint of late nerves around the stadium, firing just wide, before County had a glorious three on two chance to level that was thwarted by some brilliant last-gasp defending from Ralston.

Celtic had done enough though to merit the three points and the handsome lead it now gives them at the top of the table. They may well have already done enough to ensure that they stay there all the way to May, with one hand on a second consecutive Premiership trophy for Postecoglou already.