Rangers close in on title
Rangers 3 Aberdeen 1
Kyle Lafferty scored only his third goal of the season as Rangers moved to within potentially two games of wrapping up the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title.
Lafferty's previous contributions against Aberdeen may have been somewhat dubious - namely the 'cheating' tag he earned for a feigned headbutt last season - but he made the headlines for the right reasons at Ibrox tonight.
Lafferty's effort was sandwiched between strikes from Steven Davis and Kenny Miller, with a Darren Mackie goal nothing more than scant consolation for the Dons as Rangers moved 13 points clear at the top of the table.
The Rangers teamsheet probably raised a few eyebrows ahead of kick-off as top goalscorer Kris Boyd was named on the bench and Lafferty drafted into the team in the wide left position, with Steven Naismith partnering Miller up front.
The omission of Boyd - who has now failed to find the back of the net in 540 minutes of SPL football - was the only change from the side who ground out an unconvincing victory over Hamilton at the weekend, the goalscoring honours going to Maurice Edu on that occasion.
Having lost to struggling Kilmarnock, it was no real surprise to see Dons boss Mark McGhee make changes for the visit to Glasgow, with Steven MacLean back from suspension and Mackie and Jerel Ifil also added to the side.
Fraser Fyvie - who picked up a knock against Killie on Sunday - was named among the substitutes, along with Derek Young and Stuart Duff.
Rangers looked lively in the opening spell with Miller and Naismith combining well enough up front without causing too many problems for Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield, who had kept clean-sheets in both of the previous meetings with the champions this season.
There were a few meaty challenges from both sides and Davide Grassi picked up the first booking after just nine minutes for a crunching tackle on Lee McCulloch but Rangers could not capitalise on the resultant free-kick with Davis failing to find a blue jersey in the packed goalmouth.
The home side continued to press and a long ball from David Weir found Lafferty in space in the box but he connected awkwardly and hooked over from just outside the six-yard box.
Rangers' hard work eventually paid off when they surged into the lead with 24 minutes gone. Edu did well to win possession before Naismith prodded into the path of Davis who left Langfield with no chance when he unleashed a ferocious shot from 25 yards.
Aberdeen had struggled to create much in the way of chances and, with half-time approaching, Mackie resorted to an ambitious long-range shot that fell well wide of target.
Davis attempted to turn provider after the restart when his cross picked out Lafferty only for the big Northern Irishman to nod over.
Lafferty then displayed some impressive skill on the left flank before setting up the shot for Sasa Papac but he was also off-target and stabbed high over the crossbar.
It was Lafferty, himself, who had the net bulging after 65 minutes when he collected from Davis and went on a surging run into the box before slotting low into the bottom corner of the net.
But the Dons pulled a goal back just three minutes later when MacLean dinked a cross over Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Mackie beat Steven Whittaker to the ball to slide over the line.
Those celebrations were short-lived and hopes of a Dons comeback were dealt a blow as Rangers claimed their third of the night with 15 minutes to go.
A Davis corner found Danny Wilson and the youngster nodded on for Miller to lash beyond the grasp of Langfield and all but secure the points for Walter Smith's men.
The win means Rangers can potentially secure a second successive title in the first game after the league split providing they pick up another victory at Dundee United next midweek.