With the sun shining in the Scotland’s biggest city, the Glasgow giants played out an enthralling Old Firm encounter, which saw three red cards and Celtic manager Neil Lennon sent off at half-time, then warned that for his safety he should not sit in the stand spending the rest of the game in the media room.
Goals from Sone Aluko, Andy Little and Lee Wallace saw Rangers open up a 3-0 lead before a late fight back from nine-man Celtic scoring twice left Rangers sweating. But Ally McCoist’s men held on to stop Celtic from securing the SPL title at Ibrox.
The Rangers manager welcomed back Steven Whittaker and Sasa Papac from injury, while Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra came back into the heart of defence after being suspended last week.
Neil Lennon was without youngster James Forrest and left striker Gary Hooper on the bench, preferring the strike force of Anthony Stokes and Georgios Samaras.
From the word go Rangers started positively and in the third minute Sone Aluko gave a taste of things to come when his shot was blocked by Thomas Rogne.
Ten minutes in, Rangers took the lead as Aluko ran through the Celtic defence before finding time and space to stroke the ball past Fraser Forster in the Celtic goal.
The visitors responded quickly as Samaras found space to run at the Rangers defence before forcing Allan McGregor into a good save. The rebound fell to Stokes but his shot sailed well over the bar. Stokes again had a chance soon after but the Rangers keeper tipped the ball over the bar for a corner.
After surviving a few set pieces, Aluko set Rangers on another attack and Wallace should have done better from his pass before sending his shot over the bar.
The former Hearts man was to be involved in the game’s first controversial incident on the half hour. He burst down the left-wing but was adjudged to have been pulled back by Cha Du Ri on the edge of the box.
Referee Callum Murray decided it was a goalscoring opportunity and showed the South Korean a red card, a decision which incensed Neil Lennon and the rest of the Celtic bench.
The rest of the first half saw Rangers dominate possession without really creating too many clear-cut chances.
Celtic boss Lennon didn’t emerge from the tunnel in the second half and it emerged that he had been ordered to the stand by referee Callum Murray, before being warned not to take a seat in the Rangers director box for his own safety.
Rangers continued to stop their east end neighbours from getting the ball and Celtic’s frustration came to a head on the hour mark when Victor Wanyama joined Cha for an early bath after a two-footed lunge at Steven Whittaker.
Despite the two-man advantage Rangers couldn’t find the second goal and soon McCoist was forced into making changes. First to go off was the impressive youngster Rhys McCabe with a calf problem and on came Kyle Lafferty for his first appearance since January 2nd. He was immediately in the thick of it forcing Forster into a good save after turning Emilio Izaguirre.
Lafferty’s fellow Northern Irishman Andy Little was the next to come off the bench and his first touch was dramatic. After Forster saved Wallace’s initial effort he followed up to double Rangers lead.
Wallace was to get himself on the scoresheet on 76 minutes after a great ball from Steve Davis, which he slotted under Forster to celebrate a first derby day goal after being denied in the 1-0 defeat at Parkhead in December.
Wallace was replaced by Salim Kerkar and Rangers were expected to see out the final 10 minutes with little difficulty. However, with a minute of normal time remaining Samaras was hauled down in the box by Carlos Bocanegra, who was shown the third red card of the game. Captain Scott Brown scored the resulting penalty which was seen as nothing more than a consolation.
But in injury time Celtic won a free-kick which was headed in by Rogne to set up a tense finale, but Rangers held on to deny nine man Celtic the chance to win the title at Ibrox, with the bubbly put on ice for a week at least.
Rangers: McGregor, Whittaker, Goian, Bocanegra, Papac, Aluko (Little), Davis, Edu, McCabe (Lafferty), Wallace (Kerkar), McCulloch.
Celtic: Forster, Cha, Rogne, Mulgrew, Matthews, Brown, Ki (Commons), Wanyama, Ledley (Hooper), Samaras, Stokes (Izaguirre).
Referee: Callum Murray