Ryan Christie’s goal was his sixth in nine games for CelticDanny Johnson’s late goal earned Motherwell a precious Scottish Premiership point and prevented Celtic returning to the top of the table.
Brendan Rodgers side looked like moving back to the summit thanks a sumptuous Ryan Christie goal – his sixth in nine games. Instead they stay in second.
Leigh Griffiths had a first-half spot-kick saved by Mark Gillespie and Filip Benkovic had an effort disallowed.
And Johnston skidded a late shot past Craig Gordon to earn an unlikely draw.
Champions Celtic now trail Kilmarnock by a point – with two games and hand – and trail Rangers by goal difference.
Motherwell, whose best chance before the goal was a Conor Sammon shot straight at Craig Gordon, stay ninth – six points clear the relegation play off place.
Christie class amid chaos
Most of the discussion pre-match was on who had been left out of the Celtic team.
From Sunday’s Betfred Cup final win there were seven changes in total, including Odsonne Edouard, Tom Rogic and James Forrest all dropping out, with Scott Brown among those returning.
However, it did not take long into proceedings at a misty Fir Park for the headlines to turn to one man who is simply undroppable.
Sitting narrow on the left of the Celtic midfield, Christie was unplayable at times, particularly early on as Motherwell, who lost captain Peter Hartley after six minutes to injury, were pushed deeper and deeper.
On 13 minutes, the man who won Brendan Rodgers his seventh trophy as Celtic manager at the weekend demonstrated his class.
With the hosts’ defence a man light with Liam Donnelly off getting treatment, a surging run and perfect pass unleashed Christie in the Motherwell box. A neat first touch gave him time, before a crisp finish across Gillespie arrowed into the far bottom corner.
It was a game of few chances as Stephen Robinson’s side, despite a heroic shift, struggled to repel Celtic for long enough to create any chances of their own.
Ten minutes after taking the lead, Benkovic had the ball in the net as the large travelling support celebrated, only for Kevin Clancy to rule it out for a tug in the box.
This should have been a warning for Motherwell, but with half-time approaching, they looked to self destruct.
Christie was again at the heart of it, with a rash challenge from Andy Rose bringing him down. Griffiths stepped up, but Gillespie was equal to it, diving superbly to his left before then punching clear.
Motherwell emerged stronger in the second half and pushed back the Celtic tide.
An Allan Campbell shot straight at Gordon gave them hope, then Sammon had a low shot smothered by Gordon.
The chance looked to have gone for Motherwell but, in the dying seconds, with Celtic clinging on, they somehow struck to claim a precious point.
The ball broke to Johnson on the left of the edge of the box, with a swipe of his left foot, the ball evaded Gordon’s grasp, hit the far post, before ruffling the net.
Motherwell resilience to the fore – analysis
BBC Scotland’s Alasdair Lamont at Fir Park
Just as they did twice last season, Motherwell denied Celtic victory at Fir Park with a performance of guts and determination.
They refused to accept defeat and showed a resilience that had earned them a similar result against Rangers and an emphatic win over Aberdeen. Robinson has bemoaned his side’s inconsistency but they always turn up when the big teams come to Fir Park.
It looked like Celtic were on course to return to the top of the league and they played some good football in the first period, but after Griffiths missed the penalty they seldom tested Mark Gillespie.
Rodgers cut a frustrated figure at times on the touchline as his team failed to maintain the fluency they had in the early period and ultimately paid the price with Johnson’s late equaliser.