Japanese duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda scored as holders Celtic beat spirited St Mirren 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup.
Furuhashi finished off a fine move against the run of play after 15 minutes to give the cinch Premiership leaders a slender half-time lead at the SMiSA Stadium.
Alex Gogic had come close a couple of times for the Buddies in the first half but the Saints could not find a breakthrough and Maeda pounced from close range in the 52nd minute to double Celtic’s lead.
St Mirren could not get back into the game and will rue missed chances and although it was not a sparkling performance from a Celtic side who have been unconvincing recently, it kept intact boss Brendan Rodgers’ record of not having lost a Scottish Cup tie in two spells at the club.
Last season’s domestic treble winners did not arrive in Paisley without concerns.
Despite sitting three points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the Premiership, many fans have been at loggerheads with the club, from complaints about the board’s perceived resistance to splashing the cash in the recent transfer window to Rodgers and his team’s style of play.
The Hoops boss brought in Furuhashi to support birthday boy Adam Idah, who turned 23 on Sunday, up front with defender Anthony Ralston and winger Luis Palma also coming into the side.
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson was unable to play on-loan midfielder Kwon Hyeok-kyu against his parent club, while James Bolton was suspended and James Scott dropped to the bench as Charles Dunne, Keanu Baccus and Lewis Jamieson returned for the home side, who made an encouraging start – only to be hit by a stunning goal from a sweeping Celtic move.
Hoops skipper Callum McGregor sent Palma running in to acres of space down the left and when he squared to Kyogo he assertively side-footed his finish past Buddies keeper Zach Hemming for his 12th goal of the season.
Back came Saints, forcing Celtic to defend again while being unable to really test Joe Hart, although the Celtic keeper was fortunate on the half-hour mark when Gogic rattled the bar with a shot on the turn following a Caolan Boyd-Munce corner.
Another swift Celtic move in the 38th minute saw Maeda knock a Palma cross past the post, before Baccus crashed into the VAR monitor on the sidelines leaving a technician to try to reassemble it.
Palma was booked by referee David Dickinson for diving inside the St Mirren box before a spectacular overhead kick from Gogic drew a great save from Hart, as Saints piled on the pressure.
Celtic should have scored again at the start of the second half.
On-loan Norwich striker Idah had a good opportunity from a Ralston pass but missed the target with a shot on the slide.
However, Celtic did not have to wait much longer to make it 2-0 as Palma cross from the left was met by Matt O’Riley and when his shot rebounded off the bar, Maeda knocked the ball into the net from six yards.
St Mirren kept plugging away as they chased a foothold back into the game.
On the hour-mark Greg Kiltie failed to connect properly with a Scott Tanser cross and the ball sped wide and substitute Scott came close in the 71st minute with an angled drive.
There was more defending to do for Celtic as the home side kept going all the way to the final whistle without reward, while there were also chances on the break for the Parkhead outfit to stretch their lead.