Rangers blow two-goal lead at Falkirk to see league advantage cut to 11 points
Watching Celtic manager Ronny Deila saw the best and worst of Rangers as they swept Falkirk aside during a lightning start before blowing a two-goal lead and suffering their second defeat to the Bairns this season.
Kenny Miller and Barrie McKay both struck inside nine minutes at the Falkirk Stadium but the Ladbrokes Championship leaders were pegged back in the last 18 minutes thanks to a wonderful strike by Blair Alston and a well-taken equaliser from substitute Myles Hippolyte.
And Falkirk substitute Bob McHugh snatched a sensational stoppage-time winner when he steered Kevin O'Hara's low cross inside the near post to make it 3-2 and cut the gap at the top of the table to 11 points.
Deila looked on with assistant manager John Collins on a spying mission ahead of their William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on April 17. The Norwegian is sure to have spotted signs of danger from Rangers' opening spell, when they sometimes had five attacking options right up on Falkirk's vulnerable back line, but much to encourage him during the second half.
Falkirk were the last team to beat Rangers, on December 19, but the visitors looked to be on their way to a seventh consecutive victory inside seven minutes.
James Tavernier had already had a goal controversially ruled out for offside before Dominic Ball's pass got him away again. The full-back squared for Miller to tap into an empty net.
Rangers doubled their lead after getting their left-back clear. Lee Wallace's run beat the offside trap and his low cross was swept home by McKay.
The celebrating Rangers support barely seemed to notice two clear chances for the hosts. Wes Foderingham denied Craig Sibbald after Wallace gifted possession before David McCracken failed to get a proper connection with a free header.
The visiting fans in the main stand spotted Deila, turning round en masse to tell him: "You're only here to see the Rangers."
But their attention switched back to the action as their team threatened to blow Falkirk away.
McKay rounded the goalkeeper but Paul Watson cleared his scuffed effort off the line, before the wide player's driven cross was inches in front of Jason Holt. Falkirk goalkeeper Danny Rogers then stopped Andy Halliday's powerful effort.
Falkirk tightened up midway through the half but Rogers was busy again before the break, pushing Wallace's strike over the bar.
Rangers started the second half as they did the first, Miller sweeping a shot just wide from 18 yards from Billy King's cutback.
Halliday then missed a decent chance but Falkirk began to create opportunities down their left after the introduction of Hippolyte. Foderingham made good stops from Luke Leahy, Vaulks and the substitute himself.
Rangers substitute Michael O'Halloran forced a good save before Alston sent a half-volley into the top corner with the outside of the boot after meeting a headed clearance first time 20 yards out.
And the Bairns were level five minutes later when Rangers defender Rob Kiernan lost possession after initially struggling to deal with a high ball. Hippolyte rounded Foderingham before firing home.
Rangers got back on top but Kiernan's header was saved and Falkirk defended well before their dramatic winner.