Billy King came off the bench to hand Rangers a vital debut goal as the Ladbrokes Championship leaders scrambled to a narrow 1-0 win over Falkirk.
The 21-year-old Hearts winger made a surprise six-month loan switch to Ibrox this week and celebrated the move with a stoppage-time diving header to hand his new side the points.
Gers looked like they were heading for their first blank under Mark Warburton but King’s intervention means they now move eight points clear of nearest rivals Hibernian, who were busy beating St Johnstone in the League Cup semi-finals.
It was a cruel blow for Peter Houston’s disciplined Bairns, whose title hopes appear to be over having now fallen 10 points behind the table-toppers.
Rangers had to do without Andy Halliday following his controversial red card against Morton on Monday, so defender Dom Ball stepped in to fill his protective role in front of the back four.
King, though, had to settle for a place among the replacements while the Bairns also named a newcomer, former Livingston forward Miles Hippolyte, on the bench.
The teams’ last meeting was a thrilling encounter at the Falkirk Stadium, with Houston’s side coming out on top with a 2-1 win.
But this time there was about as little drama as there was quality on show during the opening half as the blustery conditions in Govan made life difficult for both sides.
Blair Alston squandered a great chance for Falkirk inside the first two minutes as he headed over Wes Foderingham’s goal while it took Rangers a quarter of an hour to register their first meaningful attempt, a James Tavernier strike pushed away by Danny Rogers.
There was little sign of the rapid passing play that had seen Gers net 21 goals in their five previous matches. Rogers was forced to scramble back and tip the ball over his own crossbar seven minutes before the break but even that only came about after Light Blues midfielder Dean Shiels overhit his cross.
The clearest chance of the half came on 40 minutes, though. Will Vaulks forced Foderingham to palm ball back into traffic with a fierce hit at the back post and just as John Baird looked to turn home the rebound, Danny Wilson produced a goal-saving block on the line before Ball was finally able to smash clear for the worried hosts.
Kenny Miller did have the ball in Falkirk’s net just after the restart but the veteran striker had wandered offside before Martyn Waghorn’s deflected strike landed at his feet, while at the other end Foderingham was again smart with his reflexes to deny Conor McGrandles’ strike.
Warbuton tried to spice up his attack by throwing January signings King and Harry Forrester on after an hour.
But even that did little to improve their accuracy in the final third as the game ticked towards a close.
However, the new signing made himself an instant hero as he leapt onto Tavernier’s cross to head home the 90th minute winner.