Rangers rev up for Celtic title crunch as derby day of reckoning arrives after madcap Killie thriller - 3 talking points

Rangers cut the gap at the top of the Scottish Premiership back to three points on leaders Celtic with a 4-1 win over 10-man Kilmarnock at Ibrox to set up a mammoth Old Firm title showdown at Parkhead.

James Tavernier netted an early own goal and then blew the chance to level from the spot when his penalty was saved by Will Dennis after Joe Wright handled on the line to deny Dujon Sterling which earned the Killie man a red card.

Rangers took advantage of the extra man to level deep into the eight minutes of first half injury time through Fabio Silva and substitute Ben Davies - on for the injury Leon Balogun at half time - was the unlikely scorer to put Gers in front early in the second half to ease nerves and fellow sub Tom Lawrence scored a screamer and it was his shot that was saved that led to John Souttar adding a fourth when he nodded home the rebound.

With the huge pressure Rangers were under to get the win, a fast start was essential and they were almost presented with a dream chance to open the scoring from the spot when David Dickinson was sent to the monitor by VAR Steven Kirkland for a potential handball against Corrie Ndaba but the whistler stick to his original decision not to award a penalty.

There was the prosecute of another penalty inside 10 minutes when Cyriel Dessers went down inside the box but the striker had been offside in the build-up so it was another escape for Killie who were living dangerously early on but incredibly the visitors grabbed the lead. Danny Armstrong did well down the right, clipped a ball into the back post for Liam Polworth and Matty Kennedy knocked it back across goal and it deflected off Tavernier and beyond Jack Butland.

It was an incident-packed opening with VAR at the heart of most of it early only and Dickinson was again sent to the monitor to check a handball by Wright on the line. It looked like Fabio Silva might have been offside in the build up when he crossed for Sterling but once it was confirmed the Portuguese was onside, the penalty was awarded. The whistler then had no choice but to award the penalty with the Killie stopper dismissed. Tavernier stepped up but his effort was saved brilliantly by Dennis.

There was real frustration in the stands at Ibrox as Gers struggled to cut the visitors open despite having a man advantage but they did grab that vital equaliser on the stroke of half time. John Lundstram floated a ball into the box and Silva did well to escape former Ibrox kid Lewis Mayo and guide the ball into the bottom corner.

It was a fine finish but, given it was only an equaliser in a game where they needed goals, overdone the celebration as he milked the moment by pointing to the the back of his shirt.

Leon Balogun stayed in at the break with a reported back problem while Davies came in for his first appearance in almost five months and he proved a crucial introduction as he fired Gers in front. Lundstram drilled a long range shot on target which Dennis spilled and Davies pounced to squeeze home the rebound.

There was relief around Ibrox after that and it was a chance to try and eat into Celtic’s goal advantage. Mohamed Diomande almost did it only to see his effort crash off the crossbar but substitute Lawrence made no mistake with the ex Derby County man receiving a pass about 20 yards out taking a touch to create space before sending a wonderful shot behind Dennis and Souttar completed the scoring in injury time with a header into the net. Here's three talking points from Ibrox:

Gers still in the title hunt but can they win derby?

Victory was simply a must here for the Light Blues if they wanted to have any chance of winning the Scottish Premiership and they did that. It wasn’t pretty at times and when they fell a goal behind there were plenty of nerves. But they did what they had to do, albeit against 10 men for the majority of the game, and deserve credit for getting the job done. However, the next question is whether they did it in a manner that suggests they can win at Parkhead which is what they have to do now if they are to win the league. That looks unlikely on this performance even if the way they finished the game will give them a bit of confidence heading across the city. They go in three points behind and while they did have that two-game collapse, it is a position they would have taken when they were seven points behind in October.

VAR drama

It was hard to keep up with the amount of decisions the officials made early on which contributed to the game being so stop-start. There was no rhythm to the match, although that would have suited the visitors much more - particularly after they had taken an early lead. But there were big decisions even before the goal.

Referee David Dickinson was sent to the monitor after only a couple of minutes when the ball struck Corrie Ndaba’s hand but Dickinson stuck by his own decision. However, it took far too long for him to be sent to the monitor and it proved to be the wrong call by Steven Kirkland at Clydesdale House. It set the tone for a fussy first half of decisions and backed up those fans who reckon the technology ruins the spectator experience.

Job done for Killie

The result here was never going to make any difference to an outstanding season for Kilmarnock. The Ayrshiremen’s celebrations actually started 24 hours before kick off as they secured European football for next season without kicking a ball when Dundee lost against St Mirren. That said, Derek McInnes would have been keen to put on a show in front of the TV cameras. And they looked like they were going to make life a lot more uncomfortable for Rangers after taking the lead in bizarre fashion through James Tavernier’s own goal but the red card to Joe Wright and the time they conceded the equaliser, right on half time, meant they had a mountain to climb.