Hearts’ advantage at the top of the Premiership was chopped to a point after another disastrous first-half in Glasgow.
As was the case when they suffered their only previous league defeat of the campaign away to Rangers a month previously, the Tynecastle side were three goals down at the interval against second-place Celtic.
Odsonne Edouard struck twice before the break either side of a header from Filip Benkovic as the defending champions cruised through the first 45 minutes. There were further goals from James Forrest and Ryan Christie after the interval as Hearts crashed to their second heavy defeat against Celtic in less than a week. The league leaders have now completed three consecutive matches without a goal since losing top scorer Steven Naismith to injury last weekend.
Manager Craig Levein made four changes to the side that started Wednesday’s controversial Edinburgh derby draw with Hibs, as Jake Mulraney, Harry Cochrane, Steven MacLean and Demetri Mitchell took the places of Oliver Bozanic, Olly Lee, Ben Garuccio and Callumn Morrison, all of whom were listed among the substitutes.
Celtic signalled their intent in the opening 13 minutes when Christie twice tested Zdenek Zlamal before the same player saw a snapshot deflected behind from just inside the box.
Hearts had seemed to be coping well enough in the early stages but they fell behind in the 18th minute following a moment of magic from Edouard who fired a stunning strike in off the underside of the bar from the angle of the box.
Celtic doubled their lead in the 26th minute when Benkovic rose highest to head home Callum McGregor’s corner. And the hosts went further ahead 13 minutes later when Edouard shrugged off the challenge of Jimmy Dunne on the edge of the six-yard box to force in Kieran Tierney’s cross from the left.
Hearts, who replaced the injured Mitchell with Garuccio for the start of the second half, carried slightly more attacking intent in the first 20 minutes after the restart but were unable to create any clear chances. Celtic scored their fourth in the 65th minute when Forrest drove in a precise low shot from 12 yards out shortly after McGregor had been denied by Zlamal following an impressive surge into the Hearts box.
In what was the visitors’ first clear opportunity of the match, MacLean saw a close-range effort tipped behind by Craig Gordon from a Garuccio cross in the 79th minute before the Australian left-back smashed a 25-yard strike against the post. Christie sealed a miserable afternoon for Hearts with a penalty in the 89th minute after substitute Craig Wighton fouled Forrest.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig (Ajer 57), Boyata, Benkovic, Tierney, McGregor, Rogic, Christie, Sinclair (Morgan 80), Forrest, Edouard (Johnston 72). Subs: Bain, Hendry, Hayes, McInroy.
Hearts: Zlamal, Smith, Dikamona, Dunne, Mitchell (Garuccio 46), Haring, Clare (Morrison 72), Cochrane, Djoum, Mulraney (Wighton 80), MacLean. Subs: Doyle, Bozanic, Lee, Hughes. Booked: Clare (50), Haring (86), Smith (90).
Ref: John Beaton