Rangers restored their 10-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League with a superb second-half showing in a 3-0 win over third-placed Hibernian at Ibrox.
A tense first-half ended goalless with Paul Hanlon's header the closest either side came to opening the scoring. However, it took just five minutes of the second period for Rangers to take the lead when Steven Whittaker curled an excellent shot into the top left-hand corner of Graeme Smith's net.
A Merouane Zemmama shot almost slipped through Allan McGregor's fingers and over the line before Kris Boyd scored his 21st goal of the season from the penalty spot after Kenny Miller had been felled. Miller then scored a controversial third in injury time as he tapped in past Smith with Hibs substitute Kevin McBride lying injured on the deck.
Rangers boss Walter Smith said it was a terrific three points for his side. "We had to work extremely hard for it and I felt it was an excellent game," he said. His Hibs counterpart said although he was disappointed with the result he was happy with the way his team had played.
"We knew we were going to have something a little bit special to win the game and I thought it was an excellent first goal from us." John Hughes said. "We came here and had a real go at them. The goal knocked us flat and after that I was honest enough to say it was one-way traffic."
Walter Smith made two changes bringing in DaMarcus Beasley and Kevin Thomson, while Hibernian brought in four new faces as John Hughes elected to go with an attacking 4-2-4 formation. However the first-half was far from an open affair with both sides enjoying plenty of possession but failing to create any clear cut chances.
Miller found himself in space at the edge of the box early on but his shot on the turn flew well over. Zemmama was causing Rangers problems down the right wing and his 11th-minute cross was headed goalwards by Ian Murray but David Weir cleared the danger. The Moroccan then picked out Anthony Stokes in the box, but the Irishman couldn't connect properly with his volley.
It took a last ditch tackle from Madjid Bougherra to stop Zemmama after he raced past Sasa Papac and Weir into the box. Hibs came closest to opening the scoring from the resultant corner when Hanlon's header was cleared off the line by Papac.
Rangers were appealing for a penalty when Weir went down in the box under the challenge of Chris Hogg but referee Steve Conroy waved away their protests. Kyle Lafferty replaced Beasley at half-time and the Northern Irishman had an instant impact when he cut in and fired a fierce drive straight at Graeme Smith for the home side's first shot on target. And the forward was involved as Rangers took the lead in the 50th minute. Lafferty cushioned Whittaker's pass back into the path of the defender who curled a superb left-foot shot into the top corner of the net for his tenth goal of the season.
Hibs tried to hit back immediately with Abdessalam Benjelloun's shot deflected wide before John Rankin's power-driver flying just wide. Hibs came close in the 70th minute when Zemmama hammered a shot at McGregor which slipped through his hands but the keeper redeemed himself by claiming it at the second attempt.
However it was Rangers who doubled their lead two minutes later when Miller was tripped in the box by Sol Bamba. Boyd took the resultant penalty and buried it low in the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Smith was then forced to tip over Whittaker's chipped effort from outside the box after the defender spotted him off his line.
But the drama wasn't over as Miller added a controversial third in injury time. Hibs substitute Kevin McBride seemed to slip and injure himself allowing Thomson to rob him of possession and play in Miller who slotted home past Smith.