ALLOA did their best to dampen the party mood before Rangers were presented with the Ladbrokes Championship trophy as they held on for a 1-1 draw at Ibrox.
Michael Duffy handed the relegated Wasps a surprise early lead while Gers blew a string of chances, including an Andy Halliday penalty, as they struggled to get going.
James Tavernier eventually headed Mark Warburton’s team level 30 seconds before half-time but Gers could not put on the stylish display they were hoping for in their final home game of the campaign.
The party did finally get started but only after the full-time whistle, with skipper Lee Wallace raising the biggest cheer of the day as he hoisted the silverware high to the delight of the 50,000 bluenoses in attendance.
The match was a chance for reflection on what has been a torturous four-year trawl through the lower leagues.
The home support unveiled a banner reading “Back where we belong” as Alloa lined up to give Warburton’s men a guard of honour before kick-off.
There was also poignant moment as the sell-out Ibrox crowd rose in unison in the second minute to pay tribute to former club favourite Sandy Jardine, with the minute’s applause timed to coincide with the number two jersey he wore with distinction during a 17-year Gers career.
Jardine played a major role in holding the club together following its financial collapse but was sadly not there to see his old side complete the journey back to the top after losing his battle with cancer in April 2014.
But the ground was soon plunged into a shocked silence as Duffy swept Jack Ross’ team ahead in the eighth minute. Tavernier hurled a throw in at Andy Halliday but the midfielder’s pass was to nobody and Duffy pounced, giving exposed keeper Wes Foderingham little chance as he picked out the corner of his net.
Nicky Clark had the ball in the net after Barrie McKay drove through the centre of the Wasps defence but the frontman had wandered offside before finishing.
Jason Holt, Tavernier, Billy King and Gedion Zelalem all had pops at goal but could not beat Scott Gallagher.
And Halliday - who had netted penalties in both the Petrofac Training Cup final and last week’s thrilling shoot-out victory over Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals - let another chance go by when he fired wide from the spot three minutes before the break after former Murray Park trainee Kyle McAusland hauled McKay down as he darted into the box.
But the midfielder made amends as he swung over the cross that allowed Tavernier to head home the equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Rangers had more pressure and more missed chances after the interval, with young substitute Liam Burt - on for just his second Gers appearance - denied by Gallagher after more good work by McKay.
But in the end the result mattered little as Wallace got his hands on the trophy to bring an end to a nightmare the club has been living through since 2012.