By February, 1981, the state of Scottish football was in the process of change. Since Kilmarnock had won the league championship in 1964-65, the league title had been shared between Celtic and Rangers for the following 15 years. Then Aberdeen broke the monopoly in 1979-80, winning the competition for the first time since 1954-55; and in this season of 1981-82, they were again pushing to take the title, joined this time not only by Celtic and Rangers but Dundee United as well.
At the turn of the year in 1981-82, Aberdeen were in fact in top spot, beating Celtic 4-1 two days after Christmas. Since then, though, as the Dons started to mis-fire, Celtic went on a good run, against Kilmarnock (2-1; A), Morton (3-0; H), Dundee United (2-1;H) and Hearts (3-0; A) to take over at the head of the table.
On this day in 1981, a crowd of 52,800 was at Celtic Park for the clash with Rangers, both teams virtually at full strength;-
Celtic – Bonner, McGrain, Aitken, Lynch, McAdam, Reid, Sullivan, Burns, Provan, McGarvey, Nicholas.
Rangers – McCloy, Miller, Jardine, Jackson, Dawson, Cooper, Bett, Redford, Johnstone, McAdam, Johnston.
Celtic gave Rangers a good start as a hesitant defence allowed Derek Johnstone to score the opener in 11 minutes but Celtic then went on to dominate play, although the home fans had to wait till the second half to see some goals. These came from Charlie Nicholas in 57 and 73 minutes to give Celtic a 3-1 lead.
With only three minutes to go and Rangers pushing for an equaliser, Roy Aitken broke forward on a strong run. He tried to cut the ball back for Frank McGravey but it deflected off Colin Jackson. Fortunately for Roy, the ball landed right in his path and he fairly blasted it into the net to make it 3-1.
NB This was a pleasing result to the Celtic fans, as the two previous encounters that season had gone the way of Rangers, the Light Blues winning 2-1 at Parkhead on 23rd August 1980 and 3-0 at Ibrox on 1st November 1980.
NB2 Both McAdam brothers were in action that afternoon, Tom at centre-half for Celtic and Colin in the striker role for Rangers.