A DEFLECTED Kris Commons goal saw Scottish Premiership leaders and champions Celtic score a 1-0 win over Ross County in Dingwall today (Saturday).
The rock bottom Staggies went into this one on the back of just two victories all season and only one home win from 11 games in all competitions.
They have two games in hand over nearest rivals St Mirren, who had opened up a four-point gap in the past week, mainly achieved by their 2-1 success in Dingwall seven days previously.
It had been a case of mixed fortunes against the Hoops.
In October they slid to a 5-0 hammering at Victoria Park, but salvaged pride just before Christmas by holding the champions to a draw in Glasgow.
The hosts were without skipper Richard Brittain, whose torn hamstring has sidelined him for around six weeks.
Filip Kiss returned to the fold following his suspension, while there were also starts for Tony Dingwall, Scott Boyd, Steven Ross and new signing, ex-Celt Marcus Fraser
Celtic made two changes from the side which swept to a 4-0 midweek win against Motherwell.
Missing from that starting 11 was injured Anthony Stokes and Stefan Johansen, with Liam Henderson and John Guidetti handed starting jerseys.
The first chance fell to the hosts as Craig Curran having a pop from fully 35 yards which flashed just wide of the left post.
It was evident from an early stage that County were working hard to close down Celtic, not allowing them space to find their passing game.
The Hoops' first opportunity arrived on 12 minutes when striker Kris Commons curled a shot past the left post from just inside the penalty box.
Moments later, Leigh Griffiths headed over the top from close range when he met a delivery from Emilio Izaguirre.
The Celtic defender was soon breathing a sigh of relief when not penalty was awarded by referee Kevin Clancy when he appeared to bring down Curran in the box.
The Glasgow team were probing for an opening and Guidetti sent a 20-yard free-kick over the top after Kiss was adjudged to have illegally challenged Commons on the half hour mark.
County were still a threat going forward though and Graham Carey's powerful drive was unconvincingly pushed clear by goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Scott Boyd then blocked a net-bound Commons drive after a poor clearance allowed him the chance to shoot.
Just before the break, Kiss collected a booking for bringing down Commons, the follow-up free-kick from the striker was superbly saved by Antonio Reguero.
Youngster Tony Dingwall's involvement came to an end just before the half-time whistle when an injury saw him replaced by Liam Boyce.
So with no goals in the opening 45 minutes this was night and day to Celtic's last trip to Dingwall when they already had built up a four goal lead.
The visitors began the second half on the front foot and only a last-gasp Jamie Reckord intervention prevented Commons hitting the net after Griffiths' effort was blocked by Reguero.
However, the table toppers were ahead on 52 minutes when Commons, who is heavily linked to a move to Neil Lennon's Bolton, drove from distance and, aided by a deflection off Quinn, the ball dropped over Reguero into the net.
The Staggies responded though, as they had to, and Woods flighted a free-kick over the top after positive play to unsettle their high-flying opponents.
Chances then became few and far between with Celtic's Henderson's flashed a shot past the left post and home right-back Fraser shooting over the top in rare attacks.
Curran came to the rescue in the County box with 17 minutes left when he turned away a shot from Guidetti as Celtic sought a killer second goal.
Home manager Jim McIntyre tried to freshen up his front line in the latter stages as Jake Jervis and Darren Maatsen came on for Woods and Carey respectively.
Yet it was central defender Boyd who next threatened when his low effort was held by Gordon in the closing 10 minutes and there was no way through after that.
The win keeps County at the opposite end of the table from Celtic, who moved three points clear of Aberdeen, who were held 1-1 by St Johnstone last night (Friday).
County will now try to improve on their desperate situation next weekend when they cross the Kessock Bridge to face Caley Thistle.
Ross County: Reguero, Kiss, Curran, Reckord, Woods (Jervis 79), Dingwall (Boyce 44), Boyd, Carey, (Maatsen 78) Quinn, Fraser, Ross. Subs not used: Brown (GK), Saunders, Toshney, Cardle.
Celtic: Gordon, Matthews, Denayer, Van Dijk, Izaguirre, Brown, Bitton, Commons (Scepovic 75), Guidetti (Ambrose 86), Henderson, Griffiths (McGregor 75). Subs not used: Zaluska (GK), Lustig, Thomson, Lindsay.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.