Speared in the opening seconds on their last visit to Ibrox, Dundee discovered the sting lay in the tail of the match on this occasion.
But the pain was piled on by the same player. Harry Forrester has become a familiar nuisance to the Dens Park club, having now scored in all three matches between the sides this year.
He was the architect of Rangers’ dismantling of Dundee in the Scottish Cup last season, scoring his side’s opener after just 13 seconds. He also notched Rangers’ first in their 2-1 win at Dens Park in August.
So when Dundee fans learned he was not in the starting XI on Saturday, it added to their sense of well-being after two consecutive victories and clean sheets. But there was always the potential he could come on and make an impact, which is what happened, to Dundee’s dismay.
The visiting fans had every reason to feel uneasy when they saw Forrester, later described as a “street footballer” by his manager Mark Warburton, replace Kenny Miller with 13 minutes left. He tends to make things happen. And so he did, combining with fellow substitute Joe Dodoo to floor the visitors in the third minute of the four added on by referee Willie Collum at the end.
But it was another substitute who Andy Halliday paid tribute to afterwards. The midfielder argued that the introduction of Barrie McKay, pictured, for Josh Windass had been the turning point.
It was an interesting viewpoint since this switch earned Warburton the disapproval of many home supporters, who felt Windass was the one player with the craft to open up a solid Dundee side intent on frustration. McKay’s arrival came against the backdrop of mutters and grumbles and, in some instances, booing.
“Most important for me was Barrie coming on in 60-odd minutes,” said Halliday, after also praising the contribution of Forrester and Dodoo. “He [McKay] changed the game for me. He added that little bit of pace and tempo. It’s important for us that the subs come on and make an impact for us.”
Warburton resisted the urge to preen about such game-changing alterations. McKay, he said, was itching for the chance to show what he can do after falling out of favour in recent weeks. With Niko Kranjcar out for the long term, perhaps the 21-year-old could provide the craft needed in the middle of the park, where he played after replacing Windass with 25 minutes left.
Halliday himself could have scuppered Warburton’s plans for McKay to take up where the tiring Windass left off. A couple of minutes after the change the midfielder swiped Dundee playmaker Craig Wighton off his feet with a rash challenge that saw the 19-year-old land on his shoulder, a reason why he was later taken off.
Collum only booked Halliday, with Warburton later admitting his player risked a red card. Dundee then also nearly edged ahead, against the run of play it must be said, when Marcus Haber’s cross looked set to be prodded in by James Vincent but Jason Holt made a last-gasp sliding clearance.
A good few of the impressive 48,773 crowd had already left by the time Rangers swerved the ignominy of rancourous judgment from their own fans with a winner in time added on. Forrester headed home when unmarked after the Dundee defence’s resolve finally broke.
Dens Park manager Paul Hartley noted what this late, late blow meant for Dundee in the context of the league table – a return to the basement. “We’re not worried,” he added.
There’s certainly a new togetherness about Dundee, something midfielder Paul McGowan later attributed to their improved showings. “I’m sure we will get out of this situation,” McGowan said.
Are Dundee too good to go down? Perhaps. But that’s been said about other teams who later found they could not pull themselves away from danger.