Forrest fires Celtic to dramatic win
Celtic's Scottish midfielder James Forrest (C) takes part in a training session at Lennoxtown training facility near Glasgow, Scotland, on September 18, 2012. A dramatic stoppage time strike from Forrest secured Celtic's place in the Champions League group phase as the Scottish champions defeated Shakther Karagandy 3-0 to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg in Kazakhstan.
Spurred on by their passionate support Celtic piled forward from the first whistle with Shakhter 'keeper Alexsandr Mokin forced into a string of fine saves before Kris Commons made the breakthrough in first half stoppage time with a superb long-range strike.
Georgios Samaras then levelled the tie on aggregate as he made it 2-0 just two minutes after the break.
Celtic suffered a couple of scares as Adam Matthews cleared an Aldin Dzidic header off the line before Sergei Khizhnichenko hit the bar.
However, with the game heading to extra time Forrest slammed home to make sure Neil Lennon's side are in Thursday's draw for the group stages for the second successive season.
Shakhter, who were looking to be the first team from Kazakhstan to qualify for the Champions League, will have to settle for the Europa League after suffering heartbreak in a dramatic ending at Celtic Park.
Lennon was overcome with delight at the outcome rating it even above his side's historic group stage win over then holders Barcelona last season.
"It's the greatest thing I've ever done in football," said the Northern Irishman.
"The last three months have all been about preparation for this.
"We lost three very important players and it's been difficult to replace them. Coming back from a two-goal deficit tonight as well just makes the players' performance and efforts even more remarkable."
Shakhter manager Viktor Kumykov was reflective in defeat.
"We lost to a good team that is better than us. Obviously we are a bit disappointed with the result but overall the result is fair and reflects the game," Kumykov said.
Before kick-off the home fans inside a near sell-out crowd at Celtic Park were handed a boost as key attacking players Samaras, Anthony Stokes, Forrest and Commons all recovered from injury to take their place in the starting line-up.
In the fifth minute of a frantic opening Mikel Lustig rose to power a header from a Commons cross towards goal, but keeper Mokin tipped over.
Five minutes later Stokes' beat the off-side trap to collect a Commons through ball and round the keeper but the Irishman's effort was hacked away by Nikola Vasilkevic for a corner, quickly taken, from which Mokin turned over Forrest's fierce shot.
Shakhter settled after the early Celtic storm and in a rare foray forward Roger Canas snatched at a chance from the edge of the box which he fired over before Dzidic headed wide.
With the game heading to the break Celtic made the breakthrough in spectacular fashion. Commons took the ball off the feet of team-mate Samaras and sent a sensational strike past the helpless Mokin from 25 yards out.
The home fans then went wild as the Hoops levelled the match on aggregate just two minutes into the second half through Samaras.
The Greek striker reacted quickly to control a wayward shot from Lustig before turning to expertly dispatch a shot past Mokin from 10 yards.
However, Celtic took their eye off the ball a minute later and allowed Shakhter captain Andrei Finonchenko space to fire a shot that Forster had to stretch to keep out.
Celtic continued to push forward and Stokes sent a volley off the post from close range after getting on the end of a Forrest cross.
However, there were heart stopping moments for Celtic soon after as Matthews cleared a Dzidic header off the line before Khizhnichenko dinked an effort off the bar as Shakhter came close to a vital away goal.
With the game drifting to extra time Stokes danced round three challenges before cutting the ball back for Forrest to convert home and seal a crucial win.