Alfredo Morelos left his mark on Hibernian in more ways than one as the striker fired Rangers another huge step closer to the title after a 1-0 win at Easter Road.
The Colombian could easily have been sent off inside 15 minutes after appearing to stamp on Ryan Porteous.
But with the full extent of the incident missed by referee Kevin Clancy, he was free to slot home the only goal of the game just after half-time as Steven Gerrard’s team ticked off another of the challenges before them in their quest for Premiership glory.
They now need just eight more wins to clinch their first league crown in a decade but having survived a trip to a venue that has been particularly problematic under Gerrard’s reign, it is now surely a matter of when, not if.
Hibs were hoping to redeem themselves in the eyes of their supporters having flopped so miserably in Saturday’s Betfred Cup semi-final, but they missed the chance to reclaim third place from Aberdeen.
Gerrard, who admitted earlier this week he would have the rutted Easter Road pitch in mind when naming his team, added the steel of Ryan Jack to his line-up while Darren McGregor, Christian Doidge and Melker Hallberg returned for Hibs after their Hampden defeat to St Johnstone.
The lunar-like surface did little to help either side in the final third. Joe Aribo scampered through on goal but could only fire straight at Ofir Marciano after allowing himself to drift wide.
Then came the Morelos flashpoint. He will argue it was purely accidental that he planted his foot onto Porteous’ knee as he lost his balance on the soft turf but there is little doubt the compliance officer will want to take another look.
It was certainly a let off for Rangers when Clancy opted to keep his cards in his pocket and they had more good fortune to be thankful for before the break as the hosts came close.
Doidge could only redirect the ball straight at Allan McGregor after Josh Doig fired a low ball into the box, while the Rangers number one then spilled a Chris Cadden cross which appeared to be sneaking in at the front post.
Lucky not to bring down Doidge in his desperate attempt to recover the loose ball, Allan McGregor let out a sigh of relief as Jackson Irvine blazed a golden chance over from Doidge’s tee-up.
Porteous dusted himself off after his run-in with Morelos and put in a vital block to deny the striker after Ryan Kent had jinked his way in from the left.
But the Scotland squad member was guilty of switching off six minutes after the restart as Morelos grabbed the opener.
He had the striker within arm’s reach but let him wander free as Jack’s pass into Steven Davis was flicked round the corner by the Northern Irishman and similarly again by Aribo to leave Morelos free to fire home his 11th goal of the season.
Morelos will blame the pitch for his failure to make it two soon after as Kent’s low ball across goal, nudged on again by Aribo, bobbled up just as he looked set for a tap in at the back post.
There is certainly no love lost between the Rangers squad and Porteous.
The centre-back drew complaints from the visiting bench when he put Kent up in the air with a firm challenge and the two dug-outs exchanged insults when Jack repaid the favour soon after.
And while Morelos may have got off with his incident, Darren McGregor had his name taken after clumsily treading on Glen Kamara’s ankle.
A sublime Kent pass put Morelos through again but when he hesitated, Paul McGinn was able to save Hibs.
Marciano then kept out a fierce Kent strike but Rangers had already done enough to secure the points.