Rangers are on the brink of a first Scottish Premiership title since 2011 after Alfredo Morelos’ strike end gave them a 1-0 victory at Livingston.
Morelos was involved in the big talking point of the first half as the forward was booked for a simulation after facing a challenge from goalkeeper Max Stryjek.
The incident led Steven Gerrard to protest referee John Beaton’s decision at halftime and the Rangers boss was sent to the stands after receiving two yellow cards.
That didn’t bother the league leaders, who finally took the lead in the 87th minute with Morelos in the right place at the right time to kick home after Stryjek parried Steven Davis’ shot.
The victory sees Gerrard’s men advance 18 points to the top of the table and they could claim the title on Sunday if they beat St Mirren on Saturday and Celtic would lose points to Dundee United on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
How the Rangers got closer to the title …
Livi’s plastic pitch certainly didn’t help the show in the early stages, with the action ball play between a streak of scoreless heads and high, tucked passes.
Filip Helander approached the half-hour’s opener as he met Borna Barisic’s corner, his head crawling just above the bar.
The competition had been fairly uneventful until Beaton stepped in eight minutes before the break.
Morelos hit the bridge as he passed Stryjek while chasing Steven Davis’ sublime ball over it.
Beaton searched for a moment ready to point to the place before changing his mind and reaching for the top pocket to reserve Morelos. Gerrard exploded on the sideline and had all rights, as replays showed Livi’s Polish goalkeeper made clear contact by cutting off Morelos’ heel.
The Rangers had a decent claim for another penalty moments later as Joe Aribo sent Ryan Kent down the left. The winger’s cross was blocked but only up to Arfield, who widened just as Sibbald dove late.
Once again Beaton looked away but couldn’t escape Gerrard’s gaze as the enraged boss made his way to the pitch to face the official at halftime. A yellow card was not enough to stop his explosion and he spent the second half watching from the stands.
His mood was also not helped by the sight of an offside flag as Connor Goldson returned home from Barisic’s free kick four minutes after the restart.
A block from Fitzwater then frustrated Kent as Aribo let the ex-Liverpool player go down the middle.
If the halftime breakup hadn’t been explosive enough, Beaton was then forced to temporarily suspend action as a barrage of fireworks was unleashed out of the ground in the 55th minute by fans Rangers waving to what they expected to be. the imminent arrival of the club’s 55th crown.
Once the beating ceased – and some debris that had rained on the pitch cleared – the action resumed with Morelos driving over a Glen Kamara pass but Stryjek had cleverly descended to save.
Morelos took the wrong option 15 minutes from time as he slipped through the goal when Kent and substitute Cedric Itten shouted for a cut.
However, there were no complaints from his teammates with three minutes remaining as he regrouped his 14th goal of the season after Stryjek knocked down a Davis shot at his feet.