But by the end, it was Paradise Lost as 10-man Celtic succumbed to a Barcelona side which had arrived without its main star, Lionel Messi, but still managed to depart with all three points.
What they left behind, however, was a bitter taste in the mouth of many Hoops fans who believed Messi's replacement, Neymar, was complicit in the red card shown to Scott Brown after 58 minutes.
What can't be argued is that Brown should have known better than to leave the referee, Stephane Lennoy, with a decision to make, one which will potentially rule the skipper out of the next three group games.
The 21-year-old Brazilian was flashing down the left wing with the Celtic captain in hot pursuit.
Brown's tackle was deemed a foul, but TV showed he then flicked out at the youngster on the ground and Neymar, as is his wont to do, made the very most of it.
The French ref took his time before pulling out his red card.
The feeling of injustice fired reserves of determination in the Celtic side.
But this was doused when Barca broke 14 minutes from time, sub Alexis Sanchez - on for barely a minute - powering down the vacant right wing before delivering a perfect cross for Cesc Fabregas to head back across Fraser Forster and into the net.
It was tough on Celtic. But then, life in the Champions League always is.
And, on another night full of passion and atmosphere - even one that ended with such disappointment - where else would any of them wish to be?
Exactly a week after they had been humbled by the less-than-mighty Morton, Lennon's Bhoys had the gall to believe they could take down Barcelona.
They did it last year, so why not this time? For one thing, the goals have dried up in this competition. And, without that vital ingredient, life is tough at any level.
Celtic have not scored in any of the four Champions League games they have played in 2013, before last night twice drawing a blank against Juventus in the last 16 then again when they faced AC Milan in the San Siro on Match Day One this season.
The last time they hit the net in the competition proper was when Kris Commons rammed home the winner from the spot against Spartak Moscow back in December to give the Hoops qualification from the group.
Certainly, Lennon was aware of the need to have attack-minded players on the pitch from the start, with Anthony Stokes retaining the manager's trust after his performance in Milan, but swapping places with Georgios Samaras who led the line with the Irishman and Kris Commons supporting.
What was lacking was pace, Derk Boerrigter's ankle injury ruling him out and James Forrest recovering from his virus enough only enough to sit on the bench.Given that Barca have made an art form of blowing away opponents in the first phase of games, the message to keep it tight had duly been delivered by Lennon.
So, to get to half-time with the scores still locked at 0-0 must have felt satisfying, even if Barcelona had enjoyed 72% possession.
Indeed, from the kick-off, they kept the ball for a full one minute and 48 seconds - a life-time in football terms - before Emilio Izaguirre recorded Celtic's first touch.
For all this, they did not cut open Celtic, and the few chances they created were not of the clear-cut variety.
Fabregas had an effort blocked by Efe Ambrose, Andres Iniesta had sent a shot over, and Neymar - a real will-o'-the-wisp who troubled Mikael Lustig so much the Swede was booked for one foul too many on him before the break - flicked a cross from Danny Alves just wide.
Forster's only real moment of concern came from a Xavi free-kick whipped in from a tight angle on the left, but, under pressure, the big man managed to push the ball for a corner.
Celtic's retort to all of this was a burst into the box by Samaras to connect with a Stokes threaded pass, but Victor Valdes blocked.
Set pieces were always going to be Celtic's best hope, but too often they spurned any opportunity by being penalised for fouls as the ball was delivered.
Barca were willing to mix up their approach, quick passing and mesmerising movement interspersed with diagonals behind full-backs.
All of which was hard enough to deal with when the numbers were even.
The red card for Brown meant a quick reshuffle and rethink by Lennon, who sent on Forrest and Beram Kayal for Lustig and Stokes.
The most pleasing aspect of all that followed Brown's dismissal was surely the manner in which Samaras assumed responsibility for dragging the team up, sliding into tackles, taking on three opponents at a time and inspiring all around him.
In response, Celtic enjoyed their best attacking spell, Forrest pulling out a good save from Valdes with a powerful drive, then Mulgrew headed down but wide from the resultant corner.
Perhaps lulled into a false feeling of empowerment, the Hoops were caught on the break and Fabregas was there to deliver the fatal blow.
It would have been worse had Forster not pulled of a remarkable double save from Neymar then Alexis in the dying minutes, before an even better stop when the £50million youngster was clean through on him.
But, in the end, another blank by the Hoops meant they remain without a point in Group H.