Rangers legend Walter Smith was honoured as the Gers fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Aberdeen at Ibrox, but their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership was cut to two points.
Former Rangers manager Smith died aged 73 on Tuesday and it was an emotionally-charged Ibrox that witnessed the visitors race into a two-goal lead after 15 minutes through headers by striker Christian Ramirez and former Celtic captain Scott Brown.
The shell-shocked champions reduced the deficit with an Alfredo Morelos header in the 20th minute and levelled with 10 minutes to go through a James Tavernier penalty but had to settle for a point.
Steven Gerrard’s side remain on 24 points with Celtic now sitting on 22 following their 3-1 win over Hibernian. Hearts and Dundee United are a point further behind.
It was a tremendous effort from the Dons, who had stopped the rot of 10 successive matches without a victory with a 1-0 home win over Hibernian on Saturday, while Rangers remain hot and cold.
There was a perfectly-observed minute’s silence before the match to commemorate Smith before a frantic and exhilarating first half unfolded.
The home fans were stunned when Aberdeen midfielder Dean Campbell, back in the side along with Dylan McGeouch and Jonny Hayes, played in Ryan Hedges who stood the ball up for Ramirez to head in from six yards.
There was more drama six minutes later when Dons captain Brown, whose every touch was booed, produced a stunning diving header from a McGeouch corner to make it 2-0 and he revelled in his celebration. The Light Blues were in total disarray.
Rangers halved the deficit when Morelos rose in a packed penalty area to nod in a free-kick from captain Tavernier.
As pressure on the Dons increased, defender David Bates blocked a goal-bound drive from Gers centre-back Connor Goldson.
From another corner in the 34th minute, Goldson and John Lundstram had efforts repelled by sheer numbers around the six-yard box and just before the break Joe Lewis brilliantly saved Goldson’s bullet header from a Tavernier corner.
Rangers tried to force the issue at the start of the second half but it was laboured rather than inspired.
Scott Arfield replaced Lundstram on the hour mark with Marley Watkins on for Ramirez before Scott Wright and Fashion Sakala came on to try to help Rangers rescue at least a point.
The frustrated home fans roared with 10 minutes remaining when referee John Beaton pointed to the penalty spot after Bates fouled Sakala and Tavernier fired the ball past Lewis to set up a barnstorming finale, but that was as much as Rangers were getting.
What the managers said
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard: “There will be no excuses at all. I think, of course, the last 24, 48 hours have been tough for everyone connected with the club, and not just people at Rangers.
“I think the football world, the media, people who have been lucky enough to spend time with Walter.
“I think the tributes have been very fitting for him and his family, they should be very proud of what he achieved here at Rangers and at other clubs, but also the human being that he was. They should be extremely proud.
“It has been tough but that had nothing to do with how we looked and how we wanted to look, so there will certainly be no excuses.
“There was a lot of that we didn’t recognise as a staff and we need to fix a few things moving forward.”
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass: “They are a really good team with really good players, so to get undone by a free-kick that doesn’t look like a free-kick and a penalty that doesn’t look like a penalty, I think that’s good for us.
“I think you can tell by players’ reactions when free-kicks are free-kicks and penalties are penalties.
“You could see that Lewis was very disappointed with the refereeing decision. He got yellow-carded for it, for shouting at him.
“The penalty kick doesn’t look like a penalty kick to me. Yes, (having seen it again) it’s not a penalty kick. It is a little bit of a coming together, it isn’t a penalty kick.
“The boys put in a performance like that, the work-rate, effort and Rangers have a brilliant group of players but we get undone with that and it is very disappointing.”
Motherwell host Rangers at Fir Park on Sunday in the Scottish Premiership, live on Sky Sports Football; coverage starts at 11am with kick-off at 12pm. Aberdeen take on Hearts at Pittodrie on Saturday at 3pm.