JAMES FORREST kept Celtic on track for a third successive title with a double at Dens Park this afternoon.

The experienced winger made a rare first-team start as the Hoops continued the countdown to the crown with a nervy, hard-fight win over a determined Dundee outfit.

Brendan Rodgers’ side maintained their three-point advantage and that’s one down and four to go with the climax coming sharply into focus.

Next up it’s Hearts in Glasgow on Saturday, Rangers the following week, Kilmarnock away the following midweek and the curtain will come down in Paradise against St Mirren on May 18.

Forrest, though, is the man the team have to thank with his crucial strikes in each half which have taken his tally to an incredible 107 for the Parkhead club.

WALLOP…James Forrest thunders Celtic into the lead with a first-time strike at Dens Park.

Forrest exploded onto the scene on the half-hour mark with a blistering 18-yard drive to break the Dundee barrier.

Liam Scales knocked a short pass to Reo Hatate who in turn picked out Kyogo Furuhashi lurking on the edge of the box.

The ball was exchanged into the tracks of the evergreen winger who didn’t hesistate as he took the ball first-time on the run to fire an unstoppable right-foot drive that hurtled unerringly past the motionless Jon McCracken at his left.

It was a breathtaking effort from the 32-year-old wide Bhoy and he lapped up the moment as he was mobbed by his colleagues.

The champions urgently required a piece of the unexpected as they toiled throughout a patchy first-half.

The Parkhead men started brightly enough and keeper McCracken kept his side in the contest with three top saves inside 10 minutes – two from Nicolas Kuhn and the other from Greg Taylor.

The German flanker was foiled in the fifth minute when he was allowed to drag the ball in from the right to his favoured left foot, but his low attempt was parried and then held by the netminder.

THAT’S MY BHOY…Matt O’Riley races to congratulate James Forrest after the winger’s wonder strike.

A couple of minutes later, McCracken dived full-length to his right to push away another drive from Kuhn and unfortunately there was no-one following up to finish off the job.

The trio of stops was complete when Scales nodded on a left-wing corner-kick from Matt O’Riley and Taylor was at the far post to direct an effort towards the net.

The shotstopper looked beaten until he threw out a desperate right hand to deflect the header off target.

Celtic had a lot of possession, but Joe Hart, in his sixth last game for the club, had to look lively on a couple of occasions.

He saved a close-range effort at his near post as the hosts attempted a quickfire breakaway after a sloppy pass from Scales had gone astray and the 37-year-old keeper was right in line to save a powerful 18-yarder from Amadou Bakayoko.

Hatate also mishit an effort past the post from eight yards when he might have done better in the 24th minute.

Celtic were on the back foot for the first 15 minutes of the second-half as the hosts desperately chased an equaliser. There was an anxiety about the back lot that created tension throughout the team – and among the away support.

In the 52nd minute, the defence went awol when a right-wing corner-kick from Owen Dodgson found Mo Sylla unmarked only six yards out, but, thankfully, he headed wide of the post.

In the 62nd minute, tiring skipper Callum McGregor and the misfiring Kyogo were withdrawn to make way for Tomoki Iwata and Adam Idah.

HAIL THE HERO…two-goal James Forrest accepts the plaudits after No.1 from Kyogo Furuhashi.

Five minutes later, the Hoops were celebrating their second goal – and once again Forrest was the hero.

It wasn’t quite as spectacular as his first effort, but no-one was complaining as he worked a one-two with Hatate, hared into the box to accept the return pass and strike a low drive through McCracken’s legs.

Then Forrest made way in the 72nd minute to a rousing reception from the grateful travelling support as Luis Palma took his place on the left wing.

A minute later, Hatate struck the post with a superb effort and only moments later the hosts were thrown a lifeline when Idah clocked off for split-second at a corner-kick and diverted an attempt from Antonio Portales past the helpless Hart.

The keeper had the shot covered until the frontman stuck out a foot to change the direction of the ball.

Just beforehand, Hatate had come so close to a third when he received a pass from Alistair Johnston, worked an opening and then sent a low whiplash drive past the diving McCracken only for the ball to thump against the base of the upright and bounce to safety.

Six minutes were added on as the Hoops held on for a win that was laced with way too much tension.

TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor; O’Riley, McGregor (sub: Iwata 62), Hatate; Kuhn, Kyogo (sub: Idah 62) and Forrest (sub: Palma 72).

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