Rangers cut the gap to Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic to three points as they dispatched with bottom club Livingston in professional fashion.
A palpable sense of expectation engulfed Ibrox ahead of kick-off after their Old Firm rivals’ draw at Aberdeen earlier in the day, giving Philippe Clement’s side the chance to go within a win of top spot with a game in hand.
The forlorn visitors – now winless in 16 league games – showed resolve to restrict Rangers, but Fabio Silva’s first goal for the club and Rabbi Matondo’s curler both went in off an opponent late in the first half to ease the anxiety.
Todd Cantwell’s swept finish at the end of a searing move gave the impression of a side in control as Rangers ramped up the pressure in the title race.
Gusts of wind in Govan were the hosts’ biggest asset in the opening stages as Shamal George fumbled at balls into the box, before doing well to scoop out a James Tavernier corner that looked destined for the back of the net.
A resolute visiting defence forced frustration in an expectant crowd, but Silva’s deflected volley from a corner lifted weight off their shoulders and paved the way for Matondo to add a second before the break.
There may have been some fortune in their first-half goals but, in a title tussle of fine margins, Rangers were content just to head into the break with a comfortable lead to build on.
That confidence showed in the link-up between Ross McCausland and Cantwell in a moment of real quality, with the latter’s cool finish adding gloss to a gritty performance.
McCausland’s header in behind and an audacious Silva overhead kick could have made their victory more sparkling, though capitalising on the champions’ slip-up was the only matter of importance for Clement’s challengers.
Player of the match – Fabio Silva (Rangers)
Rangers do their job as clock winds down for Livi – analysis
Will this be a showing that will live long in Rangers’ fans memory? Probably not.
But after Celtic dropped points for the sixth time this season in the early kick-off, the vast majority of those inside Ibrox would have taken any kind of victory to narrow the gap at the top.
The hosts still had their moments and Clement was able to flex some muscle in making six changes, displaying the options that he has at his disposal in what is set to be a chaotic and crucial second half of the season.
Silva had his best performance since moving north from Wolves, while Oscar Cortes got on to show the type of energy he’ll hope to give his new side in the final third.
For 40 minutes, Livingston were rigid and showed the “fire in their belly” that David Martindale insisted he and his staff still hold despite their turgid run of form.
But that fire didn’t burn bright at the opposite end of the park, registering a xG of absolute zero.
It’s the second time since the end of December that Livingston have failed to register a single shot of target, albeit both against the Old Firm.
Not many would have expected them to get anything from Ibrox, but with the clock winding down and their position at the bottom of the table looking more certain by the week, every game counts if they are to beat the drop.
It’s Rangers turn to take on managerless Aberdeen as they meet at Ibrox on Tuesday (20:00 GMT), while Livingston travel to fourth-placed Kilmarnock on Wednesday (19:45).
- 27BalogunSubstituted forSouttarat 22′minutes
- 31BarisicSubstituted forYilmazat 61′minutes
- 8JackSubstituted forLawrenceat 61′minutes
- 45McCauslandSubstituted forWrightat 76′minutes
- 17MatondoSubstituted forCortésat 61′minutes
- 7Fábio SilvaSubstituted forDessersat 76′minutes
- 2DonnellanSubstituted forNottinghamat 73′minutes
- 20SangareSubstituted forBradleyat 73′minutes
- 29PenriceSubstituted forAndersonat 45′minutes
- 4CarsonSubstituted forKellyat 73′minutes
- 22ShinnieSubstituted forMackayat 60′minutes
- 19NoubleSubstituted forKellyat 45′minutes
- John Beaton
Match ends, Rangers 3, Livingston 0.
Second Half ends, Rangers 3, Livingston 0.
Attempt missed. John Souttar (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Tom Lawrence with a cross following a corner.
Attempt missed. Connor Goldson (Rangers) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by James Tavernier with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Jamie Brandon.
Attempt blocked. Tom Lawrence (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Todd Cantwell.
Attempt blocked. Cyriel Dessers (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Lawrence.
Foul by James Tavernier (Rangers).
Daniel Mackay (Livingston) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Ridvan Yilmaz (Rangers) hits the bar with a left footed shot from outside the box.
Attempt blocked. John Lundstram (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Lawrence.
Attempt missed. John Souttar (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Connor Goldson.
Attempt missed. Cyriel Dessers (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Óscar Cortés (Rangers).
Delay in match because of an injury Ayo Obileye (Livingston).
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Sean Kelly.
Substitution, Rangers. Scott Wright replaces Ross McCausland.
Substitution, Rangers. Cyriel Dessers replaces Fábio Silva.
Ross McCausland (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.