Kenny Miller missed a penalty as Rangers came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw against Inverness Caledonian Thistle that moves them three points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
A sensational first-half strike by Johnny Hayes was cancelled out by Miller's 20th goal of the season before the Scotland striker's penalty nine minutes from time was stopped by the feet of goalkeeper Ryan Esson. Rangers had Allan McGregor to thank for keeping them in the game at stages as Inverness added a point to the one they collected at Celtic Park a fortnight ago.
The result ends Walter Smith's side's 100 per cent away record this season as they blew the chance to move five points ahead of Old Firm rivals Celtic, whose game against Kilmarnock was postponed due to the weather.
"We started very slowly and didn't deserve any better than we got in the first-half of the game," the Rangers manager said. "If we had played the way we had in the second half I don't think anyone would have said anything other than we would have gone on to win the game."
Terry Butcher said he was ecstatic about the result. "We have come a long way this season; that's our second five-match unbeaten run that we're on," the Inverness manager said. "We are marching up. We like to win games but if you can get bonus points like they are today against the Old Firm then everything is alright."
The league leaders were sloppy in possession in the opening stages and it was McGregor who was the busier of the two goalkeepers early on. The Rangers goalkeeper had to be quick off his line to clear a long ball over the top that Adam Rooney was bearing down on before he came to his side's rescue in the ninth minute.
Eric Odhiambo's slick pass cut the defence open and found Rooney unmarked in the box but the goalkeeper rushed out to reduce the angle and blocked his shot. Rangers looked to hit back and Naismith darted in the box to meet a floated pass from Weiss but headed his effort just over. Naismith then turned provider and rolled a pass into the path of in-form Miller but the Scotland international dinked the ball over the bar with the outside of his right foot.
However it was Inverness who took the lead in the 31st minute through a sensational strike from Hayes. The Irishman was allowed space to drive at the retreating Rangers defence and sent a swerving left foot shot from 25 yards which clipped the inside of the post on its way into the top right hand corner of the net.
Miller was appealing for a penalty when his shot cannoned off an Inverness defender's hand but his protests were waved away. James Beattie replaced Weiss at the break as Rangers started the second half with more urgency. It didn't take long for Miller to level the scores with a superb strike in the 57th minute. The striker took a touch after collecting a pass from Davis before unleashing a low drive from 22 yards that hit the post on its way in for his 20th goal of the season.
Minutes later Rangers had McGregor to thank again as he blocked a close-range shot from Rooney and then tipped Hayes' headed follow-up over the bar. Naismith missed a golden chance to put his side ahead when he beat the offside trap to collect Miller's pass but dinked his shot over the bar with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The Glasgow side's pressure paid off in the 81st minute when Beattie won Rangers a penalty after being fouled by Stuart Duff. However, Miller sent the resultant spot-kick straight down the middle which hit Esson's leg and went out for a corner as Rangers had to settle for a point.