A Lee Wallace goal sent Rangers on their way to their most impressive victory of the Scottish Championship season - and handed his former club Hearts the title.
Wallace was handed the freedom to get forward as Stuart McCall changed his faltering team’s tactics, and it worked as the left wing-back scored one and played a role in Kenny Miller’s late second as Rangers won 2-0 against Hibernian.
Wallace fired home in the 44th minute following a quick break and Miller finished with 10 minutes left after the left-sided player appeared to impede Paul Hanlon.
The victory was McCall’s first in his three games in charge and his team’s first in six and it meant that Hearts’ 23-point lead at the top is unassailable.
But it also has a major impact on the race for play-off places as Rangers cut the gap on second-placed Hibs to three points and allayed supporters’ fears that their poor form left them susceptible to slipping out of the top four.
McCall dropped Kris Boyd from the squad while Tom Walsh missed out with a hamstring strain.
He also made a tactical switch as he lined up with three centre-backs while wing-backs Wallace and Darren McGregor were both tasked with getting forward.
Rangers started brightly but Hibs, who were looking for an eighth successive win, had a decent spell around the 10-minute mark which ended with Liam Fontaine heading wide from Dylan McGeouch’s cross.
Hibs were having more of the ball but could do little with it and Nicky Law curled a free-kick just over as Rangers grew in confidence.
The opener came from some quick thinking from Bilel Mohsni and Nicky Clark after Rangers won a free-kick midway inside their half. Clark peeled off to the left and the Tunisian found him with a long free-kick. The striker’s low cross was flicked on by Miller and Wallace was quick to react after Lewis Stevenson had foiled McGregor as the wing-back rifled the loose ball into the roof of the net from eight yards.
The second half was finely poised with Hibs pressing and Rangers breaking with purpose. Hanlon and Miller missed decent chances from corners at either end and Mohsni almost sparked another goal when he threaded it through for Miller, who in turn played in Clark, but Hanlon got back to block.
Mohsni’s slip almost let in Hibs seconds later but Marius Zaliukas cut out Franck Dja Djedje’s square ball towards Dominique Malonga.
Hibs improved in possession in the final 20 minutes but they still could not find a killer pass, although Scott Allan had a shot deflected just wide.
And they were undone by some poor refereeing from Willie Collum, who played on after Wallace had taken out Hanlon inside the Hibs box after the defender had cut out a forward pass.
The ball broke to Miller, who slotted home from 16 yards before Hanlon was booked for protesting.