Sloppy Rangers missed the opportunity to punish Celtic as the champions capitulated at home to Motherwell.
Goals from Alfredo Morelos and Fashion Sakala put the Ibrox side in full control until Jordan Roberts and Kaiyne Woolery earned the battling visitors a point.
Celtic had earlier been held to a goalless draw against Hibs but Rangers’ failure to capitalize ensures the gap at the Premiership summit remains three points.
For the second week running, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were unable to build on the euphoria of a stunning Europa League result against Borussia Dortmund.
This was a different kind of failure to that which plagued them at Tannadice seven days ago, throwing away a healthy advantage when the points should’ve been well safe.
It’s a result that places further significance on a tricky midweek trip to St Johnstone, fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the table.
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As was expected, Rangers started like a side fresh from recording one of the greatest results in the club’s history.
Barely a minute had passed when Morelos turned an effort onto the crossbar after powering his way into the Motherwell box.
It set the tone for early Rangers pressure as Tavernier’s curling shot produced an excellent save from Liam Kelly before John Lundstram headed wide.
Kelly was it again just shy of the 20 minute mark, palming away a powerful Lundstram strike as the traffic continued to flow one way.
A breakthrough felt inevitable and Rangers duly helped themselves to not one, but two swift goals.
Morelos stooped to meet a cross from the right that went beyond the reach of Kelly and broke Motherwell’s resistance.
The onslaught quickly continued with Ryan Kent twisting and turning in off the left, and his low ball across goal found Sakala at the back post to smash home with aplomb.
Motherwell’s ultra-conservative early approach had been smashed to bits and they responded with three half-time changes.
Jordan Roberts, Liam Shaw and Justin Amaluzor replaced Joe Efford, Mark O’Hara and Ross Tierney for the restart.
It appeared to have made little difference to the flow of the match until Kaiyne Woolery burned past Lundstram on the right flank and rifled over a brilliant cross for Roberts to tap home from close range.
Suddenly Rangers needed to rediscover their first-half urgency but their was only frustration for Morelos as he headed home again but was immediately warned by the offside flag.
That wasn’t the end of the Colombian’s misfortune, either. A sublime reverse pass from Kent put the striker through but again the flag had gone up by the time he battered a trademark lashed finish into the roof of Kelly’s net.
Those close calls created an air of anxiety around Ibrox that proved to be justified when Woolery pounced on some hesitant defending from James Tavernier and Connor Goldson to fire under Allan McGregor and earn the visitors an unlikely point.
Rangers’ startling capitulation
The first 45 minutes of this contest were about as straightforward as it comes for Rangers as they blasted their way into a two-goal lead that could well have been extended.
They had a further two ruled out for offside in the second period, but somehow conspired to lose two desperately poor goals that provide a further setback to their ambitions of retaining the title.
The zip and verve that characterized their first-half play and left the Steelmen on the ropes deserted Rangers after the restart and they paid a heavy price for it.
Margins remain incredibly thin at the top end of the table but Rangers can’t keep on taking these body blows if they want to turn the tide in their favour.
Title race takes another twist
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou predicted last week there will be more twists to come in the spring to the flag and, sure enough, it has.
The Parkhead side could have been six points clear come kick-off at Ibrox had they not turned in such a limp performance at Easter Road.
That initially appeared to galvanize Rangers as they raced into a two-goal lead, only to throw it away during a bizarrely slack second period.
Twists and turns within the twists and turns, it seems, as this fascinating fight for the title just keeps on throwing up surprises.
motherwell rally superbly
A two goal lead is a notoriously precarious one but this match showed all the signs of being over when the half-time whistle went.
Motherwell hadn’t threatened at all and Rangers looked razor sharp in attack, making their dominance count where it matter.
But credit to Alexander, he ran the changes at half-time and his team responded.
Yes, Rangers had two goals ruled out for offside, but the Steelmen refused to be breached again and took their opportunities ruthlessly when they appeared at the other end.
And all that without main man Kevin van Veen, missing through injury.
A superb result and effort from the Fir Park side.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.