Should Hibernian overcome Livingston at home tonight, it will reduce the gap between them and leaders Rangers to a mere two points, albeit with the challengers having played one fixture more than the leaders.
That will be in marked contrast to the potentially devastating 11-point chasm which would have opened up had Rangers prevailed in the meeting between the clubs at Easter Road 16 days ago.
Instead, Hibs won 2-1 and their recent form (12 wins and a draw from 13 outings) suggests that they are in it for the long haul.
Yet Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday remains convinced that the Championship leaders are too strong mentally to buckle now, claiming it will be “no problem” for them to retain pole position for the remainder of the campaign.
“At Rangers you need to show that character and bottle every game,” said the 24-year-old. “Maybe Hibs don’t have the same amount of pressure that Rangers have on them to win every single game.
“For teams that are going to play Hibs, it’s not as big an occasion as when teams like Alloa come to Ibrox and play in front of 50,000.
“But Hibs are doing their job and picking up their results so credit to them. We just look forward to every single game.”
That reverse in Leith was the first setback Rangers suffered following a record-breaking run of 11 straight league victories from the start of the season but, according to Halliday, the defeat failed to puncture their self-belief.
“It would have been different if they’d blitzed us off the park at Easter Road and got a comfortable victory,” he said. “But with the chances we had in the second half we could have taken something from the game.
“I can’t stress enough that we give Hibs a lot of credit for the way they are playing and picking up results. In the past, teams have played well against Rangers, got a result but then lost the next week. It’s happened so many times.
“But Hibs went to St Mirren and won again at a tough place. Credit to them but, if we keep picking up points and doing what we do, then there is nothing to worry about.
“I fully believe that we can do that with the ability in the changing room and the demands we place on ourselves.
“It will come to who has the most consistency and we’ve had quite a lot of it with 11 wins out of 12 this season.”
That first league defeat in Edinburgh has certainly done little to dent the confidence of the Rangers players.
Hibs manager Alan Stubbs has managed to get under the skin of his opposite number at Ibrox, Mark Warburton, on several occasions this season, usually by mentioning the gulf in resources between the Glasgow club and their rivals in the second tier.
In August he claimed that it should be “easy” to finish top of the pile when you have the finances to sign better players than everyone else and, after the win on 1 November, he claimed that he was working on a budget less than a quarter of the size of Warburton’s.
“Maybe our budget is bigger than certain teams but it is nowhere near as big as it has been in the past. Our budget is never going to go down to the level of Alloa and clubs like that but he [Warburton] has lowered it significantly,” said Halliday.
“He’s done a very good job on a lesser budget than other [Rangers] managers.
“Stubbs has got his budget and he’s doing well at Hibs but it’s a completely different job, completely different demands, completely different aims and completely different goals.
“Is it mind games? Maybe, but that’s part and parcel of being a manager. We saw Sir Alex Ferguson master that for many years at Manchester United so it’s something we don’t really listen to. We just try to do what we do, everything geared towards the Saturday and we’ve done that pretty well so far.”
Warburton revealed last week that cash-strapped Rangers may lose key players when the transfer window reopens in January but Halliday argues that losing Warburton, who has been linked with the vacant hot seats at Fulham and QPR, would be a bigger loss.
“He came in with not a lot in terms of budget, with a broken squad which was low on confidence and he has brought in players who have done well for him,” said Halliday. “Not just that: he’s changed the style of play from last year and he’s changed the results on the park, which is the most important thing.
“When a manager is doing so well, it’s only natural that people will be looking at him but the gaffer is really enjoying it here. He is thriving off the demands placed on this club.
“I think he’ll want to stay and achieve the goals he set himself.”
l Halliday was speaking to publicise the fact that the Rangers Youth Development Co logo will be on all Academy team strips for the foreseeable future.