Rangers moved 21 points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership thanks to Ryan Jack’s stunning finish against Kilmarnock at Ibrox.
The Scotland midfielder’s volley just before the break was enough to give Steven Gerrard’s side a seventh consecutive home win.
Dogged Kilmarnock limited the leaders to a handful of chances.
But they rarely threatening at the other end and have now lost both games under new manager Tommy Wright.
Hamilton Academical’s win away to Motherwell means Kilmarnock are now only a point above the bottom two sides having played more games than both.
A seventh defeat in a row for the Ayrshire side – and their third in succession this season against Rangers without scoring – will leave Wright in no doubt that, while Gerrard’s side continue to edge closer to the title, his new charges face a fight against relegation unless they can find goals from somewhere.
It is the reason why Wright this week signed Kyle Lafferty following the Northern Ireland international’s exit from Reggina, but the former Rangers striker’s lack of match fitness denied him a debut against his former side.
They could certainly have done with more bite up front against a Rangers side who again failed to reach their early-season heights following Sunday’s disappointing display in drawing with Hamilton.
With both Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos suspended and Cedric Itten on his own up front, Gerrard’s team were proving toothless in attack and another frustrating afternoon looked in store as they struggled to tip-tap their way through Kilmarnock’s crowded 4-5-1 formation.
James Tavernier had the ball in the net from Itten’s neat flick only to be ruled offside, but that was their only clear sight until a sublime bit of skill from Jack eight minutes before the break.
After a couple of Kilmarnock blocks inside the penalty box, it fell to the Scotland midfielder 18 yards out and he controlled it neatly with the instep then volleyed it powerfully past goalkeeper Colin Doyle.
It was a finish that fully justified Gerrard’s decision to restore Jack and Steven Davis to his midfield.
Either because the goal inspired Rangers or because the visitors were forced to look for an equaliser, the home side were suddenly finding a little more space and Doyle’s fingertips denied Ryan Kent drives either side of the break.
Joe Aribo also squandered a great chance when put clean through by Kent.
Kilmarnock will probably feel aggrieved that they were not given the chance of an equaliser when they were denied a late free-kick after Danny Whitehall was fouled by Leon Balogun just outside the penalty box, but a draw would have flattered the visitors.
Man of the match – Ryan Kent
What did we learn?
Gerrard will be pleased that the Rangers juggernaught is back on track after that little hick-up against Accies last weekend.
There is no sign of the second half of the season collapses that have dogged his time as Rangers boss and they are developing the habit of champions – grinding out wins despite not playing at their best and while without their top marksmen.
Wright knew the magnitude of his task when he took charge of Kilmarnock and the latest defeat will underline the need to get Lafferty up to speed as quickly as possible.
They are now on the worst losing run from any team in the Premiership this season. However, as with Wednesday’s narrow defeat by Motherwell, he will again take positives from a spirited performance.
Rangers travel to Belgium to face Royal Antwerp in the Europa League last 32 on Thursday (20:00 GMT) before hosting Dundee United in the Premiership a week on Sunday (15:00). Meanwhile, it doesn’t get any easier for Kilmarnock, who head to Pittodrie to face fourth-top Aberdeen next Saturday (15:00).
More to follow.
- 7HagiSubstituted forWrightat 79′minutes
- 14KentSubstituted forArfieldat 88′minutes
- 27TshibolaBooked at 75minsSubstituted forDaboat 81′minutes
- 8DickerSubstituted forBurkeat 64′minutes
- 7McKenzieBooked at 56minsSubstituted forWhitehallat 79′minutes
Match ends, Rangers 1, Kilmarnock 0.
Second Half ends, Rangers 1, Kilmarnock 0.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Brandon Haunstrup.
Joe Aribo (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Youssouf Mulumbu (Kilmarnock).
Scott Wright (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Diaguely Dabo (Kilmarnock).
Foul by Cedric Itten (Rangers).
Clévid Dikamona (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Rangers. Scott Arfield replaces Ryan Kent.
Foul by James Tavernier (Rangers).
Greg Kiltie (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Colin Doyle.
Attempt saved. Joe Aribo (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Ryan Kent.
Foul by Scott Wright (Rangers).
Brandon Haunstrup (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Rangers. Joe Aribo tries a through ball, but Cedric Itten is caught offside.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Clévid Dikamona.
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Diaguely Dabo replaces Aaron Tshibola.
Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.