Kilmarnock 0-4 Celtic
Celtic ended their most promising season in years without a trophy despite a gritty and dramatic four-goal victory at Rugby Park.
Martin O'Neill's side lifted themselves from the disappointment of midweek defeat in the Uefa Cup final and - for 10 minutes at least - looked on course to leapfrog great rivals Rangers on a thrilling final day to the season.
When Alan Thompson put Celtic three ahead with a 54th-minute penalty, it edged them towards their third title in a row on goal difference during a day of fluctuating fortunes.
But, just as Henrik Larsson was denied a fourth by the post, news arrived from Ibrox that Rangers had gone further ahead of Dunfermline Athletic to snatch the championship trophy from their grasp.
Thompson perhaps vitally missed another penalty, Stilian Petrov added a fourth with seven minutes remaining, but it was to no avail with Rangers winning 6-1 at Ibrox.
O'Neill had been in subdued mood as he was interviewed by BBC Scotland prior to kick-off, but he and his tired players would have been lifted by an electric atmosphere at sold-out Rugby Park.
Javier Sanchez Broto returned to goal after being cup-tied for the Uefa Cup final, being preferred to Rab Douglas, who is still not fully match fit.
Joos Valgaeren failed to recover from injury, allowing Stanislav Varga his first SPL start at the heart of the defence.
O'Neill signalled his attacking intentions by bringing Scotland Under-21 striker Shaun Maloney into midfield in place of Paul Lambert.
But the strategy was upset by an early crashing challenge by Alan Mahood after only two minutes that eventually forced Maloney to be withdrawn through injury after only 12 minutes.
Kilmarnock were without six first-team regulars, with youngster Shaun Dillon returning after four months out through injury to replace the suspended Greg Shields.
And it took Chris Sutton only 16 minutes to give Celtic the lead.
Thompson swung in an inviting corner and his fellow Englishman headed past the despairing Gordon Marshall's dive from close range.
The same pair combined for the second goal two minutes before the break, when Thompson threw a curling free-kick into the six-yard box.
Sutton could not gather initially but stabbed the bobbling ball over the line while lying on the ground.
Alan Thompson scored one and missed one penalty
Still behind Rangers at that stage, the afternoon apeared to swing in Celtic's favour when referee Kenny Clark pointed to the spot after 54 minutes after Sutton fell to the ground inside the box under a challenge from Dillon.
Thompson coolly stroked home the spot kick to put Celtic in front in the championship race for the first time.
But, when Larsson prodded a Sutton cross off the woodwork, it allowed Rangers to again nose in front with a fourth goal at Ibrox.
Thompson blasted a penalty kick over the bar after former Celtic goalkeeper Marshall was adjudged to have pulled down the English midfielder inside the box.
Petrov broke clear to slot the ball into the corner of the net after 73 minutes, but it was not to be enough.
And Broto had to pull off a superb save to deny McDonald after a superb Killie break away.
Kilmarnock: Marshall, Fowler, Dindeleux, McLaughlin, Dillon, Locke (McDonald 45), Mahood, Fulton (Hay 81), Canero, Boyd (Di Giacomo 60), McSwegan.
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Murray.
Booked: Marshall, Mahood, McSwegan, McLaughlin.
Celtic: Broto, Mjallby, Balde, Varga, Agathe (Smith 74), Lennon, Petrov, Thompson, Maloney (Lambert 13), Larsson, Sutton.
Subs Not Used: Douglas, McNamara, Crainey.
Booked: Sutton, Thompson, Broto, Lennon, Mjallby.
Referee: K Clark (Scotland).