A first-half Ryan Jack goal – his first, incredibly, for the club he joined from Aberdeen on a Bosman transfer last summer – was all that separated the two combatants at the end of 90 typically frenetic minutes.
However, the gulf between Steven Gerrard’s team and Brendan Rodgers’ side on the park was far greater than the narrow scoreline suggested.
Rangers moved level on points with Celtic, who still have a superior goal difference and a game in hand, in the Ladbrokes Premiership table entering the winter shutdown with the morale-boosting win.
They will, though, go into the second half of the campaign with a definite belief they can prevail in the league as a result of the overall showing and important triumph.
So is the balance of power in Scottish football set to change? Or was it merely a blip in the defending champions’ march to an eighth consecutive title? Here are five things we learned from the weekend encounter.
RANGERS CAN WIN THE LEAGUE
The reaction to the Glasgow derby matches is invariably over-the-top. So the fallout to this Rangers triumph over Celtic – their first in 13 games and their first in the league in just shy of seven years – was inevitable. There has been euphoria and rejoicing down Ibrox way while an air of gloom and foreboding hangs over Parkhead.
It is, though, worth remembering a few salient points amid all the hysteria. Celtic were without Leigh Griffiths, Tom Rogic and Kieran Tierney on Saturday. Odsonne Edouard, too, failed to make the starting line-up. Elsewhere, neither Filip Benkovic nor Mikael Lustig were involved in the second-half after limping off injured. The visitors were, then, missing half of their first choice outfield players.
Will they continue to perform as badly again in the second half of the season? It is highly unlikely. They certainly overcame their indifferent early-season form in fine style this term. The chances are they will bounce back from this painful reverse when they get key men back and make a strong challenge for their third consecutive treble.
Rodgers is keen to bring in several players, not least two new strikers, during the January transfer window. He was deeply unhappy at the backing he received during the summer. So it seems unlikely they will fail to strengthen again. I still think Celtic will lift the Premiership trophy come May.
All that said, if Rangers can reproduce their weekend performance in their remaining 17 league games they can push them all the way and possibly end their city rivals’ lengthy spell of domestic dominance. In Scott Arfield, Connor Goldson, Ryan Jack, Ryan Kent, Ross McCrorie, Allan McGregor, Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier they have players with ability and hunger who won’t be fazed by the pressure of the title race.
ANDY HALLIDAY IS THE HEARTBEAT OF STEVEN GERRARD’S SIDE
The boyhood Rangers fan led by example at Ibrox on Saturday. He threw his body into every 50-50 challenge, got in the faces of opposition players and ran for 90 minutes. His combative approach rubbed off on those around him.
It was obvious how much the victory meant when the game ended. He pulled his shirt over his head and spent a moment in quiet contemplation before joining in the celebrations.
Halliday may not be the best player Gerrard has in his squad. But the Liverpool great appreciates the commitment and effort he shows and knows he is invaluable to his Rangers side. His presence will be important in the months ahead.
BRENDAN RODGERS GOT HIS TACTICS AND TEAM WRONG
As well as Callum McGregor did on Saturday – and he was comfortably Celtic’s best performer once again despite being played out of position at left back – he was badly missed in midfield.
Having the Scotlandinternationalist pulling the strings for his side in the centre of the park or even in a more advanced role would have helped the visitors retain possession and perform far better. Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham struggled from kick-off to the final whistle and Ryan Christie ahead of them suffered as a result.
Why, too, start with Edouard on the bench? By the time the French striker came on his side was being overrun. He was unable to make a significant impact.
Rodgers’ insistence his men play the ball out of defence also backfired in a hostile environment. They were lucky not to lose by a far greater margin. Only some fine saves by Craig Gordon kept the scoreline respectable. All in all, it was a bad day at the office.
SENIOR PLAYERS LET CELTIC DOWN
Rodgers needed big games from Dedryck Boyata, Brown, Lustig, Ntcham and Scott Sinclair on Saturday and failed to get them. The Northern Irishman picks players on form not reputation and is ruthless when individuals fail to deliver for him. All five will be fortunate to retain their places when the league resumes next year.
THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON WILL BE AMAZING
With Celtic and Rangers level on points in the Premiership table and Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Hearts lurking just behind them, this is the most unpredictable and entertaining title race in years.
The defending champions’ air or invincibility was certainly dented on Saturday. The resumption of league action on Wednesday, January 23, can’t come soon enough for their challengers.