Singing in the rain - Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Rangers marched triumphantly to the leadership of the SPL this afternoon with a hard-fought but well-deserved 1-0 victory over Celtic at Ibrox.
On a day of torrential rain it was a first-half goal from one of Ulster's favourite sons - Steve Davis - that decided the outcome of this vital encounter.
Manager Walter Smith made two changes from Sunday with Madjid Bougherra and Kenny Miller replacing Lee McCulloch and Andrius Velicka.
Many 'Gers fans took the precaution of wearing face-masks. Given the inhabitants of the Broomloan Road Stand this was a sensible move. The green-and-white hordes as is normal polluted the air with their sickening racist and sectarian songs and chants in praise of terrorist organisations.
The game had barely got under way when Paul Hartley was yellow-carded for a truly atrocious foul on Miller. It was an absolute shocker - and the Celtic midfielder was fortunate to remain on the park.
Rangers were denied by the woodwork in nineteen minutes when Steven Whittaker's inswinging cross following a Miller pass came back off an upright with Artur Boruc all at sea.
There were loud Celtic Claims for a penalty on the half-hour when Scott McDonald went down under a Steven Whittaker challenge - but the Ranger had clearly won the ball and the Australian striker was guilty of blatant simulation.
The opening goal arrived in 36 minutes - and what a fine goal it was with Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller combining well on the left, the latter's cutback allowing Miller to slide the ball home.
Celtic had scarcely threatened at all throughout the first-half - - but on the cusp of the interval Shunsuke Nakamura's inswinging corner was headed goalwards by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink only for goal hero Davis to clear the ball off the line.
Miller had the ball in the net in 48 minutes when he netted from a Davis pass only for the goal to be chalked off for offside by linesman Francis Andrews.
Nine minutes later at the other end Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink saw his header from an Andreas Hinkel cross held by Alexander.
Kris Boyd had the chance to wrap up the points just before the hour when - clean through on a Miller pass - he blasted the ball straight at Boruc who blocked his effort.
It should have been a goal - and was reminiscent of the 27th December encounter between the two sides.
Boyd again was denied in 65 minutes when from close range his stabbed shot from a Davis cutback was deflected wide by Glenn Loovens.
There was a quite disgraceful incident three minutes later when Loovens felled Pedro Mendes off the ball. It should have been a straight red card - but not surprisingly neither the referee nor his two linesmen saw anything amiss.
Kyle Lafferty replaced Steven Smith immediately thereafter - and within two minutes the Ulsterman was ludicrously yellow-carded for an imagined foul on Paul Hartley. He had clearly won the ball - but Craig Thomson saw things differently. The referee also booked Miller for dissent - and it was all too clear that the Ibrox men would get no decisions at all from this official.
Celtic substitute Aidan McGeady threatened in 75 minutes when in a lighning break he played a one-two with Hartley before firing over.
Boyd again spurned a good opportunity in 83 minutes when he had a free header from a Pedro Mendes corner only to direct it too high - then sixty seconds later he again headed over from a Davis cross.
The striker was almost immediately replaced by McCulloch as the clock ticked down towards the final whistle.
The Parkhead men were taking defeat with their customary good grace and sportsmanship - both Gary Caldwell and substitute Lee Naylor were yellow-carded in the closing minutes for bad fouls on Mendes and Maurice Edu respectively - again both could easily have been red.
Rangers survived four minutes of injury time and the sight of Boruc coming upfield for a corner - but the Ibrox men were deserved winners.
Afterwards a delighted Walter Smith commented:
"We're delighted to win. These are the games you need to win to be League Champions. We now have the title destiny in our own hands. We had it last year - but the fixture pile-up cost us dearly. We're on a good run of form just now and I'm really pleased with the way some of the boys have been playing."
Walter also praised Maurice Edu and man-of-the-match Steve Davis whose boundless energy lit up a dreich day weather-wise.
The Light Blues now lead their great rivals by two points with three games remaining. Next stop is Easter Road on Wednesday.
RANGERS Alexander; Dailly, Weir, Bougherra, Whittaker; Davis, Edu, Mendes, S. Smith (Lafferty 68); Boyd (McCulloch 84), Miller
UNUSED SUBS McGregor, Novo, Velicka, Fleck, Wilson
CELTIC Boruc; Hinkel, Caldwell, Loovens, O'Dea (Naylor 79); Nakamura, Hartley, Crosas, Maloney (McGeady 61); McDonald, Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras 75)
UNUSED SUBS M. Brown, Misun, Flood, Robson
REFEREE Craig Thomson