Scottish Premiership: Kilmarnock 0-3 Celtic

Celtic took a step closer to the Scottish Premiership title as a Kris Commons hat-trick swept aside Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

The champions initially struggled to get into any sort of rhythm in a windy opening 45 minutes in Ayrshire.

However, after the break talisman Commons netted twice in as many minutes to get the visitors off and running.

The midfielder then ensured he took home the match ball when he confidently struck a long drive into the net.

The champions move 24 points clear of second-placed Aberdeen, and just seven more points will clinch a third consecutive championship.

Kilmarnock missed the chance to move closer to nearest rivals Hibernian, and remain within four points off the relegation play-off position having played two more games than the three teams chasing them.

Celtic had the ball in the net after just 48 seconds when Anthony Stokes rolled Commons' knockdown under the legs of Craig Samson, but the Irishman was ruled offside.

It was a bright opening from the visitors and they followed that up with another sweeping move involving Stefan Johansen, Stokes and Leigh Griffiths, but the goalkeeper had little trouble getting his body behind the striker's shot.

A mix-up at the back almost allowed Kilmarnock the chance to open the scoring. Charlie Mulgrew and Adam Matthews both miskicked, but the loose ball evaded Kris Boyd just yards from goal.

Commons took his tally for the season to 26 goals

Kilmarnock thought they had a strong claim for a penalty when Boyd fell in the box after a joust with Efe Ambrose, but referee Willie Collum was unimpressed.

That was the best of the action from a scrappy first half, but Celtic came out with renewed vigour after the restart.

Samson had to tip over Johansen's powerful shot, then a clever one-two between Stokes and Scott Brown opened up the Kilmarnock rearguard but there were no takers for the Celtic captain's ball across goal.

The home side looked to have weathered the storm, but two goals quick-fire goals from Celtic blew their game plan apart.

Mulgrew swept forward on the counter-attack and fed Commons, who played a neat one-two with Griffiths before poking the ball into the corner.

Commons scored again two minutes later, first finding Adam Matthews on the right wing then racing into the middle to meet his cross into the six-yard box.

Stokes curled a shot beyond the far post as Celtic threatened to run away with the game, but the introduction of Alexei Eremenko and Chris Johnston helped give the hosts a kick-start, and it was the teenager who latched on to Boyd's pass and drilled a shot just wide.

It could have been an earlier hat-trick for Commons when he nudged Emilio Izaguirre's cross into the net, but the assistant referee's flag cut short the celebrations.

However, it only delayed the inevitable, and Commons grabbed his third when he was given ample space in the middle of the park. After collecting Beram Kayal's pass, he took his tally to 26 goals for the season with a long drive into the far corner.

Stokes looked to have earned a late penalty when Jeroen Tesselaar bundled him over in the box, but his pleas were ignored.