Rangers extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League to 13 points on Tuesday as second-half goals from Steven Whittaker and Kenny Miller sealed a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock.
The runaway league leaders put all talk of a potential takeover to one side as they closed in to within six wins of their second title in a row. A scrappy first-half at Rugby Park was only memorable for several uncharacteristic errors from Rangers keeper Allan McGregor, who couldn't seem to hold on to the ball.
Jamie Hamill cleared Kris Boyd's shot off the line before Whittaker settled any nerves with a goal early in the second period. Miller doubled their advantage with a poacher's goal minutes later in what is the Ibrox side's last league game for two weeks due to Scottish Cup action and the League Cup final against St Mirren.
Rangers boss Walter Smith was satisfied with the result after Rangers had been slow to start. "Kilmarnock were the better side for the first-half of the game," said Smith. "There was a turnaround at the start of the second-half where we had by far the best of the game and that spell won it for us with two goals."
Kilmarnock manager Jimmy Calderwood rued his side's missed chances. "I thought we more than matched Rangers and had the best chances in the first 50 minutes," he said. "Rangers upped their game second-half but they were poor goals to lose."
Chances had been few and far between in the first-half. Lee McCulloch grabbed a double at the weekend but his first contribution was to blast a shot well over the bar. McGregor did well to hold on to Mehdi Taouil's rising shot as he tried his luck from long range.
Frazer Wright picked up a booking for clattering Miller from behind before popping up in the box to block the Scotland striker's effort as Boyd looked to play him in at the near post. A mistake in midfield allowed Miller to play a high ball over the top of the Kilmarnock defence which his strike partner Boyd struck viciously on the half-volley 25 yards out only for it to dip just over the bar.
Kilmarnock were presented a golden chance on the half-hour mark when McGregor dropped Iain Flannigan's cross at the feet of Taouil but the keeper recovered to superbly block the Moroccan's shot from 12 yards out. McGregor was making his defence nervous when it took him two attempts to hold on to Flannigan's floated free-kick from the left wing before the keeper saved Chris Maguire's low drive on the stroke of half-time.
Rangers thought they had made the breakthrough in the 50th minute when Boyd sent a bouncing shot past Bell but Hamill cleared his effort off the line. McGregor was lucky to get away with another unforced error when he blasted a clearance off the back of Maguire but Kilmarnock failed to take advantage and it was Rangers who took the lead in the 55th minute.
Flannigan hesitated at the back post when Sasa Papac's cross came in from the left allowing Whittaker to rifle home the opener past Bell from close range. The hosts looked shell-shocked when Rangers doubled their advantage six minutes later.
Davis cut in from the right and hammered a shot at Bell which the keeper failed to hold allowing Miller to lift the rebound over him high into the roof of the net. Whittaker could have had a second when he waltzed past the Kilmarnock defence only to send his shot wide before Boyd sliced an effort well over against his former club as Rangers dominated.
Elsewhere, Motherwell made it 11 games without defeat as they played out a goalless draw with St Mirren.