Alfredo Morelos inspired Rangers to victory at Kilmarnock at 10 as they staged another recovery to avoid further damage to their Scottish Premiership title hopes.
Chris Stokes crashed in a header – the fourth time Rangers have conceded the first of Michael Beale’s eight games in charge – before Morelos and Ryan Kent struck either side of half-time.
The Colombian striker extended the lead after Danny Armstrong’s red card but Rangers endured a nervous final after Joe Wright’s brilliant volley.
Beale’s men held on to a victory that keeps them within nine points of Celtic, while second-placed Kilmarnock remain three points clear of Ross County.
Rangers have not been without their troubles at Rugby Park in recent years – four of their seven previous visits to the league have ended in defeat – and another difficult visit was coming after a slow start which will concern Beale.
It wasn’t as if his team hadn’t been warned either – Ash Taylor planted a loose header wide of the unguarded net after Jon McLaughlin completely missed an Armstrong corner.
Minutes later, another Armstrong delivery sent the Rangers box into panic and Stokes rose above Scott Arfield to give Kilmarnock a deserved lead.
Rangers were rocked, sloppy in possession and second after every ball as the hosts tore them apart and showed no hangover after their Viaplay Cup semi-final loss to Celtic last Sunday.
Winger Armstrong, who stood out at Hampden, was again at the heart of Kilmarnock’s best work before ruining his performance with a forearm smash on Borna Barisic which left no other choice. referee Kevin Clancy than showing a second yellow.
By then Rangers had turned the deficit into a lead either side of half time without looking hugely convincing.
Connor Goldson had a header parried by Sam Walker before Beale’s men netted a deft equalizer as James Tavernier launched Fashion Sakala down the right and the striker’s cut was perfect for Morelos to drive home with a first finish .
Morelos was again involved as Rangers surged forward, throwing a pass for Kent to strike into the bottom corner as Kilmarnock was caught off guard by a fast attack.
The Colombian forward nodded into Barisic’s cross to give the visitors a breather and he might have scored a hat-trick – Walker denied it with a sprawling save – as Rangers appeared to gallop to victory until until Wright hits in the top corner with five minutes left. .
Beale’s men almost immediately restored their two-goal advantage as Malik Tillman got the best of Walker, but former Ibrox striker Kyle Lafferty had a long-range effort pushed away from the top corner by McLaughlin as Killie was fighting to the last.
Player of the match – Alfredo Morelos