Celtic's progress has now been endorsed by material reward. On a freezing, nervous night in Glasgow, during which the football was rarely pretty, Neil Lennon earned the finest triumph of his managerial career to date. It was entirely in keeping with Lennon's character that his players battled as if their lives depended on victory.

Celtic were unfancied at the start of Group G but this win catapulted them into the Champions League's knockout stage. Few could quibble over them deserving that place, with Lennon's success all the more notable given the clubs who have already sampled elimination.

Kris Commons was the Celtic hero, with a penalty which saw off Spartak Moscow. That Spartak were probably worthy of a draw and enjoyed more possession than their hosts for long spells are irrelevant points in the grand scheme. Celtic's qualification is worthy of immense credit.

"The players have performed a miracle," said Lennon. "Nobody gave us a prayer in this group but we have qualified and deservedly so. This means the world to me."

The win for Celtic ensured 10 points from a Champions League group for the first time in their history. It also, crucially, bettered Benfica's scoreless draw in Barcelona.

Before kick-off, Celtic's anxiety could more reasonably have stemmed from Catalonia than Glasgow. Barcelona's team was noticeably understrength. Lionel Messi started among Tito Vilanova's substitutes but Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fábregas, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba were absent altogether.

Lennon had to do without the influential Victor Wanyama, who was suspended, but was otherwise untroubled by issues of selection.

Of more concern to Celtic's manager would have been the edgy start by his team, which was in tune with the stadium atmosphere. Spartak, who had nothing other than professional pride to play for amid a fruitless group campaign, used that spell to display the kind of fluency which contradicted the theory they are a club in turmoil. Still, it took 16 minutes for a goal threat of any kind. It arrived from the Russians, as Kim Kallstrom played a fine one-two with Artem Dzyuba before curling a 20-yard effort narrowly wide.

Spartak's blunder in affording Celtic the opening goal was therefore a surprise. Georgios Samaras played merely a hopeful ball forward, which Juan Insaurralde should easily have cut out. Instead, the Argentine woefully miscued his clearance straight to the feet of Gary Hooper and the striker lashed a low shot beyond Sergei Pesyakov.

Such clinical finishing has been an admirable trait during Celtic's European run. Heading into this game, they had a higher percentage of Champions League goals from shots on target than both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Hooper simply endorsed that statistic.

Spartak's response was admirable given their circumstances. The impressive Emmanuel Emenike shrugged off the attentions of Beram Kayal before playing in Ari, who offered a deft chip over the onrushing Fraser Forster. Kelvin Wilson's despairing goalline header could only help the ball into the net.

Celtic's start to the second half was brighter than it had been in the first. Their captain, Scott Brown, miscued a decent opportunity from inside the Spartak penalty area before Samaras struck the outside of a post with a close-range volley.

That effort was immediately followed by a first, inaccurate ripple of news throughout Celtic Park suggesting Barcelona had taken the lead. The danger attached to that was that the Celtic players could take heed of misinformation and temper their now brisk play.

Spartak sought to regain some impetus by introducing Aiden McGeady, a player once of this manor. The midfielder, a purchase from Celtic two years ago, would surely have started but for a knee problem. McGeady's guile was also the very commodity Celtic were in desperate need of with half an hour to play.

Charlie Mulgrew came within an acrobatic Pesyakov save of sending Celtic back in front. Commons had been the creator with a corner. A set-piece looked like Celtic's best hope of a winner. And so it proved. Samaras tumbled under a challenge from Marek Suchy, in winning what was a soft penalty.

Celtic had no reason to care about that, with Commons displaying wonderful nerve to blast home the spot-kick, with some assistance from the crossbar. "I turned my back on it, I couldn't watch," said Lennon afterwards.

Kallstrom displayed Spartak frustration with a crazy challenge on Commons, which resulted in a second yellow card for the Swedish midfielder. Commons departed the field on a stretcher but he returned to join his team-mates in epic celebration. How Celtic had earned it.