Hoops keeper Fraser Forster made a brilliant save from Tom Hateley's penalty, awarded for Kelvin Wilson's challenge on Jamie Murphy, just before the Englishman converted a Georgios Samaras cross from close range with 11 minutes remaining.
However, the champions struggled to get three points from a match that should have been over by the interval. Well goalkeeper Darren Randolph kept Celtic at bay although there were some glaring misses too before Hooper pounced to take Neil Lennon's side into the winter break nine points clear of Inverness at the top of the table.
Samaras had the ball in the net from Kris Commons' cross in the second minute but was flagged offside. Commons then flashed a shot from the edge of the box just wide after being set up by Hooper, who then turned and drove wide after taking a Beram Kayal pass with his back to goal.
Randolph tipped stand-in skipper Charlie Mulgrew's curling free-kick over the bar for a corner before plucking a goal-bound Commons shot out of the air. The Hoops support groaned once more when Victor Wanyama then missed Mulgrew's corner altogether from eight yards, allowing Well to clear their lines.
In the 37th minute Murphy tested Forster with a drive from the edge of the box and moments later curled a shot from 14 yards past the far post after working his way past Kayal and into a good shooting position. Samaras had a low drive from 20 yards saved by Randolph.
With seconds remaining Efe Ambrose missed the chance of the half when Randolph dropped Wanyama's header from a Mulgrew corner, the Parkhead defender hooking the ball over the bar from barely two yards.
Celtic had an unconvincing start to the second period but with six minutes gone Randolph tipped a deflected shot from Wanyama over the bar. Both sides were taking turns to attack but Motherwell were handed a great chance to take the lead when referee Steven McLean adjudged Wilson to have tripped Murphy in the box.
There was some concern as to whether Hateley had the ball on the spot or not - and Forster was booked for pointing this out - but when the Motherwell player blasted his shot to his left the Celtic flew across to make a great save.
The incident seemed to energise Celtic and they were soon in the lead when Hooper played the ball to Samaras and ran into the box to collect the return pass and slip the ball under Randolph from six yards. There were some nervy moments before the final whistle as Motherwell went for broke but in the end Celtic deserved their win.
- Sports & Recreation
- Darren Randolph
- Fraser Forster
- Georgios Samaras
- Charlie Mulgrew
- Kris Commons