THE NUMBER 10 has haunted Celtic for the past few months but on Saturday it served as an inspiration. 

Anticipation, as we now know, turned to devastation in the club’s quest for 10 league titles in a row. The recriminations of that failure are still being felt — although this week’s AGM demonstrated the disharmony at Parkhead goes deeper than just the team falling short on the pitch.

At Hampden on Saturday, the Celtic players carried the number 10 with them everywhere. So did the fans. The collective waves of emotion felt from the stands upon the commemoration of Bertie Auld’s life was channelled intuitively into one performance in particular worthy of the man himself.

Jota may not have had 10 on his back but his attitude from the opening seconds suggested he was imbibed with some of that famous entertaining spirit Auld often spoke about, and himself embodied.

But of course, in Glasgow, your duty to entertain has to be melded together with a deep need to succeed and that above all was at the heart of Jota's play against St Johnstone.

He twisted, he turned, he shimmied. He shot, he crossed, he passed. But he also persisted. He constantly wanted the ball, craved it even. And it was drawn to him more often than not, like the proverbial moth to a blonde-tipped flame.

Auld famously scored the winner in the 1969 League Cup final against St Johnstone at the national stadium. Jota got his own rewards in this semi not in finding the net but in claiming a deserved man-of-the-match award and setting up the winner seven minutes after the stands had illuminated in tribute to Celtic's fallen Lion.

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As for the rest of the game, it would be churlish to suggest it was all down to the influence from the stands or that it was always as entertaining as Jota was himself. The Celtic players on the field did their jobs and did them well… for the most part.

There were positive performances from the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Anthony Ralston and Callum McGregor while Nir Bitton added to a stellar afternoon against Dundee with a decent display and James McCarthy played a small but crucial role in seeing out the game.

On the flip side, Joe Hart followed up his mistake at Dens Park with a couple of wobbly moments, David Turnbull lacked a spark while Liel Abada was ineffective on the right - although his withdrawal did pave the way for James Forrest’s tie-winning cameo, so that's something.

In last month's league meeting between the sides, a 2-0 Celtic win, St Johnstone contained the Hoops for over half an hour before Callum Booth’s error led to Giorgos Giakoumakis' opener.

They tried to do the same at Hampden and, it must be said, had only limited success given it was a cup tie and playing for ‘a draw’ is never truly on the table the way it is in a league meeting.

Kyogo Furuhashi started out wide back in October but caused enough chaos after his shift in-field to win a penalty and get two Saints booked in the process. It was in that favoured central position he lined up in the semi-final and, while he still made a nuisance of himself persistently, it was Jota who immediately set about utilising the generous expanse of Hampden to his advantage. 

Indeed, Shaun Rooney and James Brown — the latter, it should be noted, playing at right centre-back specifically to combat Kyogo and Jota's speed — were led a merry jig on several occasions when trying to contain the Portuguese.

Celtic Way: Celtic fans pay tribute to Bertie Auld before kick-offCeltic fans pay tribute to Bertie Auld before kick-off

It's entirely true that Callum Davidson’s Saints were well-structured and well-drilled… but they were also blunt, both creatively and in their general approach to the game. They pressed adequately at times and certainly had some brave defensive moments but, ultimately, playing hard and playing well are two different things.

As a result, the game only truly opened up late on when the Perth side were faced with the realisation their roughhouse tactics had not paid off, although their frustration at trying to deal with the dribbling of Jota and the movement of Kyogo had become more than evident in several incidents even before the goal.

On that note, referee Nick Walsh's display - for the second time in this fixture in less than a month - will come in for some stick. Rightly so.

Among some baffling calls were cautioning Kyogo for, presumably, allowing himself to become the second Celt in a month to be kicked by a Saint while grounded, or flashing yellow at Murray Davidson for unwittingly getting in the way when Celtic tried to take a quick free-kick.

In his defence, he did clock Shaun Rooney's elbow-first leap into Stephen Welsh - who had to go off injured - although that it was then deemed a yellow offence undermines that particular achievement slightly.

But back to the football and perhaps the main overarching concern for Celtic from Saturday (and the season so far): the perception that when an early goal is not forthcoming they struggle creatively to prise open a stubborn defence.

There is credence to that point of view and, on Saturday, Postecoglou was not only without lockpicker-in-chief Tom Rogic but found Turnbull off the boil too. While Bitton had another good game, the Israeli is unlikely to be the full-time answer at the base of midfield either. 

READ MORE: Ange Postecoglou highlights Celtic 'progression' as delighted boss hails atmosphere for the ages

Crucially, however, the goal was found. For all Saints' lack of intent, this game never quite had a Livingston-at-Almondvale feel to it. 

And it did seem fitting that the decisive goal on a day so closely associated with a Celtic legend came from a player well on his way to becoming a club great in his own right.

Forrest, now eyeing his 20th major trophy at the club in next month's final, will probably never reach the kind of status Auld enjoyed (few could). However, in the eyes of most fans, he will already have done enough to live up to the words spoken by the great man's father, Joe, as unfurled in banner form on Saturday...

They'll encourage you and they'll never forget you. Forrest already had plenty of unforgettable goals - Saturday's is just one more on his list (in a wonderful quirk of fate it was, you guessed it, his 10th against St Johnstone).

Nonetheless, the winger's impact also served to add yet more evidence to the notion that quality options on the bench are essential to Celtic's aspirations.

Postecoglou had a couple of those at his disposal on Saturday - and one or two will soon return from injury - but he still needs more. Much more.

Thankfully, January is now just weeks away. Thanks to Jota and Forrest (and Bertie) there could even be a trophy in the cabinet and, thus, even more credit in the manager's bank by then.