RANGERS threw the door open for Hibernian to join them at the top of the Ladbrokes Championship after Martyn Waghorn’s last-gasp penalty miss handed Falkirk a 2-1 win.
A controversial spot-kick from John Baird had the Bairns ahead inside three minutes but Barrie McKay levelled shortly afterwards.
However, the Ibrox men failed to settle and were stung again 10 minutes into the second half when Will Vaulks fired the hosts’ second.
Gers looked set for a lifeline in stoppage time as referee Willie Collum penalised Blair Alston for handball but goalkeeper Danny Rogers came up with a match-winning save as he pushed Waghorn’s penalty onto the post.
The defeat allows Alan Stubbs’ Leith men to go joint top if they can beat Queen of the South on Saturday afternoon, with a crucial top-of-the-table clash to come a week on Monday in Glasgow.
Rangers were looking to make an emphatic start after being stung by accusations they had started to wilt under the pressure being applied by their title rivals.
But they were immediately put under the cosh by Collum’s startling error.
There was less than two minutes gone when Danny Wilson - brought back in to start alongside Nathan Oduwa and Dean Shiels as Gers boss Mark Warburton responded to last week’s 2-2 slip-up with Morton - was caught out by Baird’s pass to Vaulks.
The defender lunged in on the Bairns forward but the foul was still a good yard outside the box as he made contact. However, Collum - this week named Scotland’s only refereeing appointment to Euro 2016 - pointed to the spot, with Baird then slamming his penalty through the grasp of Wes Foderingham into the net.
McKay had the visitors level after 16 minutes, though. The Ibrox side released Oduwa down the right and and his cutback landed at McKay’s feet, with the winger rifling the ball low past Rogers.
Falkirk should have regained the initiative after 25 minutes. Rob Kiernan’s misjudgement let Kevin O’Hara in behind and the striker rolled the ball past Foderingham. But with ball heading towards the net the offside Baird gave the ball a needless touch at the back post and was immediately flagged.
It was a let-off for Rangers, who looked nervous every time their back-four was pressurised.
That was all the encouragement Falkirk needed and they got their reward after 55 miniutes. Oduwa needlessly conceded a corner from which a Baird shot broke to Aaron Muirhead. The big defender held it up until Vaulks arrived to finish off through a ruck of bodies.
It could have got worse had Foderingham not pushed an O’Hara effort onto the post before turning another of the 17-year-old’s strikes over the crossbar.
Rangers threw on Kenny Miller and Law as they desperately chased a leveller and both had chances, with Nicky Law rattling the crossbar before Rogers palmed away Miller’s close-range shot.
But there was more drama to come as Collum spotted Alston’s handball. Waghorn though was denied as Gers tripped up again.