On occasions this season, Celtic have not heeded first-half warnings during home domestic matches. There was no such slackness from the Scottish Premier League champions in their final game before Christmas, in endorsing their position at the head of the division. Celtic are well on schedule to have the defence of their title all-but wrapped up before tackling Juventus in the Champions League's last 16 in February and March.
Neil Lennon is both comfortable and successful in the Celtic manager's chair but an image of Ross County may still make him wince. When a First Division team, County bundled Celtic out of the Scottish Cup at the semi-final stage, in supposedly undermining Lennon's aspirations of progressing from being a caretaker manager.
County also held Celtic to a draw when the teams met in Dingwall on the opening day of the season. The intervening spell has been generally kind to Lennon and County, who arrived in Glasgow's East End for the first time as an SPL club. The reality of County's position as a Highland League outfit a mere 18 years ago makes their subsequent rise all the more laudable.
By the interval here, County had cause to rue the wasting of two glorious opportunities. That lack of cutting edge will lead to County fighting for SPL survival, particularly when coupled with their generous defending.
The subsequent 45 minutes, perhaps triggered by some stern Lennon talking, proved another matter entirely. Celtic were at their ruthless, flowing best.
Lennon was also boosted by the return from injury of James Forrest. The one disappointing aspect of Celtic's memorable Champions League run so far is that the young winger hasnot been able to play a prominent part because of persistent ankle trouble. Forrest, arguably Scotland's brightest, young playing hope, stepped from among the substitutes after 58 minutes and marked his appearance with a fine, solo goal.
Long before Forrest's strike, County were cursing the profligacy of Rocco Quinn and Alex Cooper. Quinn had already angled a fierce long-range drive only narrowly over Fraser Forster's bar by the time Cooper played him in, 18 yards out. The former Celtic midfielder opted to shoot first time when he had time to do a lot more; Forster was thereby able to collect a tame shot.
The roles were reversed seconds before half-time, this time Quinn feeding Cooper who found himself bearing down on Forster. Cooper's shot lacked conviction to allow Celtic another let-off. The hosts' best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes fell to Gary Hooper, with Mark Brown saving the forward's header.
Whatever message Lennon pressed home during half-time, it was heeded. In Celtic's first attack of the second half, their captain Scott Brown collected Hooper's pass before lashing home a low finish.
A couple of headed interventions from Hooper followed. Lassad was the architect of the first, albeit questions must be asked over a County central defence who were rather simply out jumped by Hooper.
Celtic's third arrived in similar circumstances, this time after County failed to clear a Charlie Mulgrew corner. Hooper, who does not score many with his head, nodded past Brown from six yards.
Forrest was rightly the recipient of a warm ovation as he stepped from the bench to make his first appearance since October. He was to receive even more acclaim on account of a fine goal, skipping through the County defence and wrong footing Brown to endorse what was by now clear Celtic superiority. Lennon was afforded the luxury of giving 18-year-old attacking midfielder John Herron his debut as a replacement for Georgios Samaras,
Hooper was denied a hat-trick by the crossbar five minutes from time and then by a Brown save after a cleverly executed backheel. It mattered not; Celtic were afforded the kind of full-time ovation from their fans that has been strangely rare on the SPL front in recent months.