RANGERS 2 FALKIRK 2
Nicky Law salvaged a point for Rangers with his last-gasp equaliser but still saw his side drop to third place after their 2-2 Scottish Championship draw with Falkirk at Ibrox.
John Baird put Peter Houston’s William Hill Scottish Cup finalists ahead after 57 minutes and Tom Taiwo doubled their lead four minutes later courtesy of a gaffe from Lee McCulloch which led to boos for the home captain.
But the Bairns were denied their first win over Gers in Glasgow since August 1994 as Haris Vuckic and then Law netted during a dramatic late Light Blues charge.
However, the stalemate allowed Hibernian - 4-1 winner over Alloa - to leapfrog Stuart McCall’s side into second.
And, with only next weekend’s clash with Hearts still to be played, it looks like Rangers will have to settle for third place and a play-off quarter-final against Queen of the South, who killed off Falkirk’s hopes with victory over Dumbarton.
Yet Rangers started brightly. Marius Zaliukas blazed an early chance over while Jamie MacDonald was forced to palm away another close-range chance from Ryan Hardie.
The goalkeeper’s block with his foot moments later from the Ibrox youngster was just as important after Zaliukas came up with a surprising burst of pace to take him past three flimsy tackles before slotting Hardie through.
Perhaps it was fatigue slowing the visitors down following their Hampden heroics last week, or maybe it was Gers’ desperation not to let second place slip from their grasp, but the home side were first to every tackle in these opening exchanges.
Their enthusiasm continued to go unrewarded, though, as Tom Walsh saw his deflected strike drop just over MacDonald’s crossbar.
But not for the first time this season, Rangers failed to maintain their early pace and allowed Falkirk to grab a foothold.
There was a scare when Luke Leahy stroked a low cross into Baird’s path after 20 minutes, but the striker’s first-time shot was brilliantly pushed away by Ranger goalkeeper Cammy Bell.
The rest of the first half was a non-event, really, as Rangers persisted with their sluggish tempo, which would have concerned McCall just as much as the half-time news that Hibs were two up at home to the Wasps.
But the early signs in the second period were promising for McCall’s men. First Walsh sent a low ball across the face of goal but only found Leahy well placed to boot clear, and then the winger curled a decent effort just wide.
But carelessness crept in again as McGregor had to backtrack quickly to block Will Vaulks after the Gers defender’s loose pass on halfway put his side in trouble.
Lee Wallace then had to dart back in stop Taiwo scoring as Vaulks sent a lovely ball into the box for the former Hibs midfielder as the Rangers defence stepped up.
But those warning signs were not heeded and, from the corner that followed, Baird found a yard of space to turn Craig Sibbald’s delivery into the net from five yards out.
Bad only got worse four minutes later as Falkirk scored again.
A Leahy ball down the right should have been dealt with by McCulloch, but the Gers skipper allowed Baird to nick possession. Once in behind the home defence, the little striker kept his cool as he squared for Taiwo, who slotted underneath Bell for the killer second.
The home fans let their fury be known as they booed their captain’s next couple of touches.
The jeers did little to help McCulloch’s flagging confidence, as another slip-up let Taiwo in again. This time, though, Bell came up with the save.
Walsh struck a post before MacDonald tipped away Darren McGregor’s goal-bound header soon after as Rangers pressed for a lifeline.
A goal did come on 83 minutes as Vuckic nodded home from Law’s corner.
Falkirk were clinging on and saw MacDonald deny McCulloch with another fabulous save, but there was nothing the keeper could do as Law found space in the final middle to calmly stroke home the equaliser.