WHAT a difference a week makes. Celtic swaggered into Tuesday night’s tie against CFR Cluj on the back of thwacking in 12 goals in two Premiership games and fully expecting to carry that form into the playoff stage of Champions League qualifying. By the time they slinked out of the stadium yesterday following an almighty scare against Dunfermline, doubt and trepidation had crept into their previously cocksure gait. And Callum McGregor wasn’t even at left-back.

Supposing Celtic had strolled past Cluj, this game was never likely to be one to get the juices flowing among the home support. The atmosphere was always going to be muted, but coming as it was off the back of such a deflating result, there was all the enthusiasm of a dentist’s waiting room around Celtic Park. And the experience for those who did bother to keep their usual Saturday appointment must have been comparable to getting their teeth pulled.

A Mikey Johnston goal nine minutes after the break seemed enough to settle the tie in Celtic’s favour, but Tom Beadling struck 12 minutes from the end to shock the champions and force extra-time. It was a deserved reward for the visitors for a performance full of endeavour, and when the chance presented itself, no little adventure.

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Alas, that wasn’t quite enough to pull off a seismic shock, James Forrest saving the day for Celtic as his deflected effort sailed into the corner with six minutes remaining of extra-time.

The Green Brigade in the standing section of Celtic Park had sent out a message to the Celtic board prior to the game that their downsizing was risking 10 in-a-row. They were presumably referring to league titles, rather than a tilt at a tenth domestic trophy in succession that almost came unstuck here in the unlikeliest fashion.

The last thing that Celtic manager Neil Lennon would have wanted as he tries to regroup his shattered troops ahead of their Europa League play-off first leg tie against AIK Stockholm on Thursday night was to have his men play 120 minutes here. But it was no more than they deserved.

The fact that Celtic kept up their long unbeaten record in domestic cup competitions, which now stretches to 28 games, was about the only positive they could take from the afternoon. It is the first time they have been taken to extra-time during that run.

There were plenty of concerns though, and those questioning why Lennon left £10m worth of new signings on the bench during the week may have got their answer here.

Both Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli started in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with the latter deployed on the left of midfield. But neither of the summer arrivals showed anything to suggest they could have made much of a difference on Tuesday night, except perhaps to have made matters even worse.

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Jullien looked cumbersome and hesitant, while Bolingoli failed to show the attacking strengths that many have used as a counterweight to the defensive frailties he has shown to date in his short Celtic career.

It is early days for both of course, and they may yet come good, but they look some way short of being ready to make an impact for Celtic at this moment in time.

For all of the home side’s early possession, it was Dunfermline who created the first clear-cut opportunity, as a Jullien slip allowed Kevin Nisbet to run in on Gordon. The forward’s touch was a little heavy though, narrowing his angle, and his dink over the keeper ended up dropping harmlessly wide.

Celtic were huffing and puffing without producing much of note, but Johnston did try to liven things up by cutting in off the left and getting a shot away that Ryan Scully dealt with well at his near post. It was almost half an hour in, and the first time the former Partick Thistle man had dirtied his gloves. His next test was a little tougher, getting up well to palm away a stinging Nir Bitton effort from 25 yards.

Jullien wasn’t faring much better in the opposition box than he was in his own, heading a Bitton cross over from close range when he really should have been finding the target.

The second half didn’t start any better from Celtic, but just as the natives were getting a tad restless, Johnston lit up the occasion with a touch of class.

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A Dunfermline clearance only went as far as the 20-year-old, who took a touch 25 yards out on the left before curling a sumptuous finish high beyond Scully into the opposite corner.

That was supposed to be that, but Dunfermline manager Stevie Crawford ripped up the script as he threw on Andy Ryan 15 minutes from the end to have an immediate impact. Ryan did brilliantly down the left, making his way to the byline before getting his head up and picking out the perfect cutback for Beadling, who arrived like a steam-train but produced a feather-light touch of finesse to sidefoot home past Gordon and send the hoardes of Fifers in the corner wild.

Still, the odds on a late Celtic sucker-punch were always going to be short, and it almost came in the final minute as a Ryan Christie corner was headered off the face of the bar by Nir Bitton.

Celtic came within a whisker of avoiding an extra 30 minutes in stoppage time as a Christie free-kick found Jullien at the back post, but the big Frenchman again missed the target from close range.

So, to extra-time, and Scully produced a brilliant one-handed stop to deny a Christie drive, but Dunfermline – by now camped in their own box – made it to the interval unscathed. They wouldn’t quite make it to penalties though, as Forrest played the role of saviour once more for Celtic.