Rangers answered the challenge from Celtic by returning to the top of the Scottish Premier League with a 3-1 win at St Mirren today.
Walter Smith's team knew Celtic's remarkable 9-0 win over Aberdeen yesterday had cost them top spot in the table, as well as potentially giving their Glasgow rivals the momentum in the title race. But the Ibrox outfit responded in confident fashion, with Marc McAusland's own goal followed by strikes from Steven Naismith and Kenny Miller, as Rangers' restored their one-point lead over Celtic at the top. Michael Higdon's late penalty was no consolation for bottom of the table St Mirren.
It could have been different for Saints if they had taken a shock early lead when Paul McGowan found space to shoot from the edge of the penalty area but his effort failed to trouble Allan McGregor. The hosts had another chance when David van Zanten picked out Gareth Wardlaw in space, but he headed well wide of target.
St Mirren had the ball in the back of the net after 13 minutes but referee Craig Thomson had already blown for a foul on McGregor, after Wardlaw clattered into the Rangers goalkeeper before Aaron Mooy rifled home. Rangers had the chance to pile on the pressure when Vladimir Weiss won a free-kick on the edge of the box and Saints could only look on in relief as Steven Davis' curling effort sailed above the wall and hit the crossbar.
With half-time approaching, Rangers threatened twice as Maurice Edu nodded over before Sasa Papac fired wide of the upright. After being frustrated in the first half, Smith's side took the lead three minutes after the interval. Kyle Lafferty replaced Weiss at the break and he got the slightest of touches on a Davis cross before McAusland headed into the back of his own net as he tried to clear.
That shattered St Mirren's resolve and Naismith got on the scoresheet after 58 minutes when Lafferty delivered a fine cross from the left for the striker to tap-in from close-range. McAusland's day got even worse when he failed to deal with a long ball before being robbed of possession by Miller, who dispatched a low shot past Samson after 68 minutes.
The hosts did manage to pull a goal back after 75 minutes when Davis was ruled to have handled in the area, with substitute Higdon converting from the penalty spot, but it was too late for a fightback.