Stuart McCall has warned his Rangers team they are drinking in the last-chance saloon after being stunned by Motherwell at Ibrox.
The Lanarkshire side claimed a shock 3-1 win in the first leg of their Scottish Premiership play-off to leave Gers’ hopes of a top-flight return hanging by a thread.
Darren McGregor scored at each end but strikes in between by Stephen McManus and Lionel Ainsworth have put Ian Baraclough’s side firmly in command ahead of Sunday’s second leg.
McCall - who will be without the suspended McGregor this weekend – now has to hope his shattered troops can rally themselves or face another 12 months in the lower-league wilderness.
He said: “What we have to do on Sunday is go and have a real go. We know we are out at this stage.
“We know if it was a cup final we would not get a second chance but we still have one.
“And while you have a second chance in football you have got to go and do everything you can.
“It will be interesting if we do go and get that first goal - but obviously then we need to go get another.”
Rangers ran out to an ear-splitting roar as a capacity Ibrox urged them forward.
But it was Motherwell’s tiny band of 950 fans who were left screaming with delight as McGregor deflected a Lee Erwin strike past Cammy Bell after 27 minutes.
McManus then nodded home a second five minutes before the break, while Gers were still reeling two minutes into the second half when Ainsworth finished off a swift counter attack.
McGregor gave his side a lifeline with a header nine minutes from the end but McCall admitted his side had only themselves to blame for the dispiriting defeat.
“I’m hugely disappointed, that’s as poorly as we’ve been in possession of the ball since I’ve been at the football club,” he said after coming face to face with his old side.
“It’s so frustrating, but take nothing away from Motherwell. I thought they hit us on the break well. I’m sure had they played like that for the majority of the season they wouldn’t have finished 11th.
“But we gave the ball away cheaply too much. I cannot criticise the players because they’ve given everything since I’ve been here and have done well in the majority of the games.
“But tonight too many of us had off-nights.
“Darren McGregor’s late goal gives us a lifeline but Motherwell will be clear favourites and quite rightly so. The first goal on Sunday will be crucial and we’ve got to aim to get it.”
Baraclough replaced McCall back in December but could not steer them away from play-off danger.
However, his side performed with ruthless precision as they exploited Gers’ weaknesses at the back and now have one foot on safe land.
“To a man the lads were fantastic,” said Baraclough. “We have come here with a game plan, drawing them on and then countering with pace. We did that fantastically well.
“We could have had a couple more but I can’t fault them when they’ve scored three goals away from home.
“They dealt with the crowd and with the magnitude of the situation. We were fantastically calm when Rangers put the pressure on with balls into our box.
“We will have to wait and see if 3-1 is enough. To have a two-goal lead is great but we now have to work even harder than we did tonight to make sure get over the line.
“It’s not going to be easy. No-one in our dressing room is kidding themselves, none of them are celebrating tonight. All the cliches are true - it’s just half-time.”