CELTIC walked a tightrope at Tynecastle tonight before surviving a second-half siege to make sure three more points were added to the collection.

Superb goals from Reo Hatate and Giorgos Giakoumakis  gave the Hoops a two-goal advantage at the interval, but the home side were invited back into the contest following a howler of a decision from referee John Beaton.

In the 62nd minute, Liam Boyce was clearly offside when he raced onto a pass from Barrie McKay that sliced through the visitors’ rearguard. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt held their line and TV pictures proved the home attacker had strayed into an offside position.

The striker collected the pass in acres of space and slid an effort below the outrushing Joe Hart.

Onlookers waited for the whistler to chalk it off. Astoundingly, the assistant referee kept his flag down, the ref went with his say-so and the goal was awarded.

Tynecastle was in bedlam as Robbie Neilson’s side reckoned this might be their night for a remarkable comeback.

SIT-DOWN STRIKER…Giorgos Giakoumakis arrives at the near post to flick in Matt O’Riley’s low ball.

PICK IT OUT…the Greek striker prepares to race away in triumph after leaving Craig Gordon and John Souttar helpless.

HEAR! HEAR! Giorgos Giakoumakis enjoys his moment to the sound of silence from the Hearts support.

And they were given the opportunity in the 72nd minute when Beaton was quick to point to the spot when he adjudged Nir Bitton had handled a header following a corner-kick which had been needlessly conceded by Carter-Vickers while under pressure from Boyce.

The Israeli midfielder hadn’t a clue where Peter Haring’s header was going, but, unfortunately, the ball did hit his hand and a spot-kick was granted to the home side.

However, justice was done when Boyce sent his low effort past Hart who went left as the ball went right. The striker’s accuracy was just out and his attempt smacked off the inside of the upright and swept across the line and away to safety.

It had been a close-run thing. The nerve-ends jangled with those of a Celtic persuasion until Beaton called a halt into the seventh-minute of stoppage-time.

As the smoke of battle cleared in the capital, Celtic discovered they were still four points off the pace at the Premiership pinnacle after Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side had snatched a 1-0 win over Livingston at Ibrox.

In the first-half, the Hoops were in control when Hatate fired them into the lead in the 27th minute with a raging 25-yard drive that thumped into the net to leave Craig Gordon beaten and bewildered.

Skipper-for-the-night Bitton broke up a Hearts move around the halfway line and rolled the ball in front of the impressive Japanese newcomer.

THE MATCHWINNER…Giorgos Giakoumakis savours the moment.

Hatate took off at speed in the general direction of the opposition’s goal. Filipe Jota sprinted alongside him and it looked as though a pass was on for the Portuguese winger who had been putting in a sprightly performance right from the off.

However, his team-mate had other thoughts as he zeroed in on goal before unleashing a vicious right-foot drive that zipped through the hands of the diving Gordon.

It was the break Ange Postecoglou’s men were looking for on an evening in the capital where the swirling wind was creating its own problems.

And new Bhoy Matt O’Riley, making an in impressive debut only five days after arriving in a £1.5million deal from MK Dons, set up the second goal for Giakoumakis eight minutes later.

Hatate was in on the act with a crisp pass to the former England youth international who very swiftly struck a low ball towards the near post.

Giakoumakis got in ahead of John Souttar to cleverly back-flick the ball away from the startled Hearts keeper.

The speed of the entire movement must have had Postecoglou purring on the touchline.

The Greek-Australian must have been delighted by the display of O’Riley who was drifting around the midfield with purpose and menace.

Jota was buzzing on the left wing as he raided inside and outside as he created panic in the Hearts ranks as he picked up speed.

There was a flashpoint incident just before the interval when Cammy Devlin, the home side’s midfield enforcer, got involved with Jota to present the Hoops with a free-kick.

The Celt had to push his opponent away to extricate his trapped leg. It was the Hearts player’s fourth bad foul of the evening leading to a fourth free-kick and at last he was shown a yellow card by Beaton.

Remarkably, the match official also booked Greg Taylor and Jota for their part in the flare-up. It was yet another utterly baffling decision from a match official concerning Celtic this season.

It didn’t get much better in the second-half.

OFFSIDE? Liam Boyce looks ahead of Cameron Carter-Vickers as Barrie McKay sends the ball through for the Hearts striker to claim his side’s controversial goal.

Bitton joined the list of bookings eight minutes after the turnaround following a collision with Devlin and just two minutes later the Hoops were denied a third goal following an extraordinary reflex save from Gordon.

O’Riley slid in Josip Juranovic and the Croatian right-back rattled in a ferocious angled drive. The former Hoops keeper threw his hands at the ball and somehow managed to divert it inches over the crossbar.

A couple of minutes later McKay had a clear foul on Hatate to down the Celt, but Beaton, only yards from the incident, didn’t deem it worth a booking. No wonder the former J-League star looked dumbfounded.

Craig Halkett wasn’t so fortunate when he clattered Giakoumakis and Postecoglou made his first substitution of the night when he replaced the tiring Jota with Liel Abada in the 61st minute.

Boyce was next to be booked for a foul on Abada and that was followed by an O’Riley drive which was blocked by Souttar.

Hearts were thrown a lifeline by the match officials when Boyce’s effort was allowed to stand and then the same player smacked a penalty-kick off the base of the post.

There was an almighty fade from the Hoops in the second-half and it was no surprise when James McCarthy came on for the shattered O’Riley in the 86th minute and Ismaila Soro replaced Hatate in stoppage-time.

Celtic can look back on a job well done on an evening when the decisions went against them again.

But a win was the most important task for Postecoglou on Australia Day and he could at least be satisfied he reached his objective.

But Celtic should never have been put in the position of having to defend desperately for the points after having so much control for the best part of an hour.

TEAM: Hart; Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; Forrest, Hatate (sub: Soro 93), Bitton, O’Riley (sub: McCarthy 86); Jota (sub: Abada 61) and Giakoumakis.


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