Nacho Novo was the hero for Rangers after his sensational strike just seconds after coming on led them to a 1-0 Scottish Cup Final win over Falkirk that secured a domestic double. The Spaniard blasted in from 30 yards a mere 36 seconds after entering the match as a second-half substitute at a sun-soaked Hampden, as the Gers added the cup to the Scottish Premier League title.
Falkirk, who only narrowly survived relegation from the top flight, came close to forcing extra time when Steve Lovell's late effort crashed back off the post with the goalkeeper beaten, but it was the Ibrox giants who held on to lift the Cup for the 33rd time.
"If I'm honest, I couldn't even see it. It passed so quickly," Novo said of his decisive goal. Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist, who takes the side for cup matches, praised Novo's wonder strike.
"It was a goal worthy of winning any game of football anywhere. It's beyond anyone's wildest dreams to expect a chance like that to happen so quickly and be so beneficial," McCoist said.
"To see those boys with the cup and the double was fantastic, but I think Falkirk deserve an awful amount of praise as they were terrific," he said. Bairns manager John Hughes paid tribute to his side for pushing Rangers all the way.
"All credit to them, they gave it a go," he said. "I think you know that with the fans staying behind. I'm so proud of them, I really am."
Rangers' regular central midfield pairing of Pedro Mendes and Maurice Edu failed late fitness tests, allowing Barry Ferguson to make his first start since 21 March. He was partnered by Lee McCulloch, also making a rare appearance, and the former Wigan Athletic player was involved in Rangers' first attempt of the match when he headed well over from a Steven Davis corner.
After a nervy opening spell, Falkirk began to reap the benefits of their neat passing game with Burton O'Brien finishing off a free-flowing move with a shot from outside the box that flew over the bar. Rangers were next to attack when Steven Whittaker's mazy run ended with a shot through the legs of several Falkirk defenders and Kris Boyd just failed to connect with it at the far post as it sailed wide.
Falkirk's Neil McCann found some room at the edge of the box in the 14th minute and sent a vicious swerving shot inches over the bar with Neil Alexander rooted to the spot. The former Rangers player was presented with an even better chance minutes later when Darren Barr found him unmarked in the box with a cross from the right, but McCann sliced his volley wide. Rangers were struggling to create any meaningful chances and in a rare attack Boyd broke into the Bairns' box, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Falkirk were dominating possession, winning the midfield battle, but without creating too many opportunities, as Rangers showed signs of a hangover from last Sunday's league championship clincher against Dundee United. But it was the Gers' who could have broken the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when David Weir's goalbound header from a Davis corner was nodded off the line by Falkirk captain Barr.
Novo replaced Boyd at half-time and made an immediate impact when he fired Rangers into the lead. The Spaniard allowed a Whittaker throw-in to drop in front of him before letting fly with a 30-yard screamer that flashed past the helpless Dani Mallo in goal.
In the 53rd minute Gerard Aafjes did just enough to stop Kyle Lafferty in the Falkirk box after the Northern Ireland international went on a rampaging run down the left wing. A minute later Falkirk came close as Thomas Scobbie headed over from a McCann corner.
The Bairns continued to press and Hughes threw caution to the wind by making three attacking substitutions with just under 20 minutes to go. And it looked to have been an inspired move when Falkirk thought they had scored an equaliser in the 76th minute.
Sub Michael Higdon sent the ball past Alexander from an O'Brien cross, but he had already been flagged offside. Lovell came agonisingly close to firing Falkirk level seven minutes from time, but his angled shot from six yards out hit the post with Alexander rooted to the spot.