THREE goals from Giorgos Giakoumakis. Three points clear at the top. Those are the headline takeaways from Celtic’s win over Dundee, but they hardly begin to tell the story of a hugely nervy afternoon at Celtic Park.

Underwhelming was the word of the day, as first, a bristling Mark McGhee defended himself from accusations that his appointment was hardly met with a fanfare by the Dundee supporters in his pre-match BBC interview.

Then, there was a hugely underwhelming performance by Celtic, and there was no defending their organisation at the back, as their set-piece vulnerability was again exposed to allow Dundee to come within four minutes or so of picking up an unlikely bonus point in their battle to avoid the drop.

Eventually the visitors were overwhelmed though, as Giakoumakis’s slow-burning start to his Celtic career was finally set alight, with the third of three poacher’s finishes making sure that his team did indeed capitalise on Rangers dropping points at Tannadice earlier in the day.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou had said prior to the game that his men would need guts as well as guile to ensure a successful season, and it was certainly the former quality that earned them this win. Just as they had against Ross County, just as they had against Dundee United, they were posed a serious question and found the answer late on.

Dundee had taken a shock lead through Danny Mullen in the first half, but a double from Giakoumakis had the match turned around before the interval in Celtic’s favour.

The visitors would not lie down though, and they again capitalised on poor Celtic defending to haul themselves level through Ryan Sweeney on the hour.

That was how it remained until the 86th minute, when the title race may have just have taken another twist in Celtic’s favour as Giakoumakis’s diving header crept through the legs of Dundee keeper Ian Lawlor.

Postecoglou made three changes to the Celtic side that lost to Bodo/Glimt on Thursday night, with Anthony Ralston back in at right-back, meaning Josip Juranovic shunted over to the left with Greg Taylor dropping to the bench.

Reo Hatate was back in after his surprise omission in midweek, while Giakoumakis was in up top to lead the line.

New Dundee manager McGhee’s first task was to set up his side to contain their opponents, while still carrying a threat on the counter. In the end, their threat from the dead ball was almost enough to give them something tangible from a dogged showing.

It was Dundee indeed who would shock Celtic Park by hitting the front though midway through the first half, and again it was Celtic’s weakness in defending set-plays that would cost them. A corner from Paul McMullan was swung in all the way to the back post, and with the home defence and keeper Joe Hart static, Mullen simply prodded the ball home.

It was a corner that would give Celtic their route back into the game, though their route to goal was a little more convoluted, the ball being worked short and then eventually back to Jota on the right. The winger swung in a ball that Carl Starfelt attacked and headed off Jordan McGhee, and Giakoumakis was there to pick up the scraps, finishing well on the swivel to drag Celtic level.

They should have been ahead moments later, as Giakoumakis dragged a shot towards the back post, where the arriving Daizen Maeda somehow couldn’t make enough of a connection to force the ball into the empty net.

The pair would combine again rather more effectively soon after though as Celtic did turn the game on its head, with a little help from Dundee keeper Lawlor. Maeda skinned Vontae Daley-Campbell on the left wing and fired in a low cross that Lawlor palmed right into the danger area, where Giakoumakis was lurking like any good poacher to tap home his second in quick order.

That seemed to be that, with the home crowd relaxing as the second half kicked off in anticipation of their team pulling clear. Jota had the ball in the net from an offside position, but that seemed to merely hint at more Celtic goals to follow.

Dundee had other ideas. And yet again, Celtic had only themselves to blame as the visitors drew level. Starfelt gave away a cheap free-kick in a dangerous area on the Dundee right as he clattered into Dee substitute Niall McGinn.

McGinn himself got up to swing the dead ball into the back post area, where Sweeney rose unchallenged to bullet a header low past Hart for an astonishing leveller.

Celtic manager Postecoglou reacted by throwing on Rogic and Abada in place of Hatate and Maeda, but there was little by way of an immediate reaction from the hosts, who continued to shuttle the ball from side to side in front of the deep-lying Dundee defence with little penetration.

Given the slip-up by Rangers at Tannadice earlier in the day, it was unthinkable that Celtic would squander the opportunity to open up a three-point gap at the top of the table, but it was very much a live possibility.

Celtic passed and probed to little avail, with Dundee defending manfully. That was until four minutes from the end, when the hosts finally found the key to unlock the visitors.

Ralston swung a ball into the near post from the right, and with the visiting defence finally switching off, Giakoumakis stole in to throw himself at the ball and force a header through Lawlor and in.

A roar of relief went up around Celtic Park that told you everything you needed to know about how close Celtic came to blowing a wonderful opportunity to stretch their lead at the top, and how important it may well be that in the end, they didn’t squander it.