Celtic hope a stirring comeback which almost certainly saved Neil Lennon's job can trigger the kind of run required to overhaul Rangers in the Scottish Premier League.

Lennon's position seemed untenable at half-time in Kilmarnock on Saturday, with Celtic trailing 3-0. Yet three goals in seven second‑half minutes claimed a draw after the manager offered what he branded the most important team talk of his career.

Lennon, better than anybody, knew the consequences attached to a heavy defeat.

"He was angry but he didn't need to shout at us, because we knew," said Celtic's James Forrest. "The players knew it wasn't acceptable and that we had to go out and do better in the second half.

"I've heard the manager shouting more than he did at half-time, because the players already knew that being 3-0 down to anyone at half-time is unacceptable at a club like Celtic.

"I think all the boys felt we should have been doing better and we took until the second half to show more commitment."

An Anthony Stokes double from long range and Charlie Mulgrew's header endorsed the Celtic comeback. Dean Shiels, Paul Heffernan and James Fowler had sent Kilmarnock into their surprise lead.

"He [Lennon] said at half-time that we had to do it for the management staff and for ourselves as well," Forrest said. "We were letting everyone down. We were letting the club down and we were letting the fans down.

"We were 3-0 down in the second half and they were still singing as if we were 3-0 up. The fans were tremendous and we really need to pay them back."

Better news was to come for Celtic as Steven Thompson's stoppage‑time goal handed St Mirren a draw at Rangers. Still, Celtic – who have a game in hand – trail their city rivals by 10 points. Motherwell sit as the SPL's second-placed team, three points clear of Celtic.

"We need to kick on from here now and show our second-half form for the rest of the season," said Forrest. "I've known the gaffer from his time in charge of the reserves and he gave me my first-team chance.

"If you ask a lot of the players they would say he is a good manager to work under but we have to try and kick on and show him what we can do."

Before returning to league business, Celtic have the possible inconvenience of a Europa League match in Rennes on Thursday. "They are a top team in Europe and getting a good result there would boost our confidence," Forrest said.

"We have fans going over there and we need to put on a performance for them as well."