Dean Shiels' strike seals classy win for red hot Rangers
Rangers got their Scottish Championship promotion bid off to a winning start as they beat St Mirren 3-1 at Ibrox - but only after Buddies captain Stevie Thompson let them off the hook.
Mark Warburton's team dominated possession with some cavalier football and grabbed an early two-goal lead thanks to skipper Lee Wallace's double, but they failed to press home their superiority and were pegged back as Cameron Howieson struck for Saints.
Thompson should have squared the match just after the break when Saints landed a penalty - only for the ex-Gers striker to sky his attempt from 12 yards.
Rangers finally put the matter to bed two minutes from the end with substitute Dean Shiels scrambled effort.
Nine goals in the cup victories over Hibernian and Peterhead had sent a surge of optimism through the Light Blues' faithful ahead of the league opener and the fans responded by packing out Ibrox with a 49,000-strong crowd.
Much has been made this week at the raising of standards both on and off the park at the club and Warburton once again gave a glimpse of his demanding nature as he dropped David Templeton and Northern Ireland international Shiels despite both giving effective displays in Sunday's League Cup win over Peterhead.
After walking out to an atmosphere that was more reminiscent of Champions League nights of old than last year's Championship obscurity, Rangers got exactly the start they were looking for.
Saints survived three early Barry McKay corners, but from the fourth Danny Wilson headed the ball into a ruck of Buddies defenders before Wallace leapt on the loose ball, ramming it high into Mark Ridgers' net after just four minutes as Ibrox erupted.
There was more jubilation on 26 minutes as McKay and Holt combined to slice the St Mirren back four in two. Captain Wallace then raced onto Holt's pass before slotting through Ridgers' legs.
Rangers were so dominant by this point that St Mirren could only stand and watch the ball speed around them, but a minute after going 2-0 down Paul McMullen weighted a perfect through ball for Howieson, who dented the party atmosphere after beating Gers keeper Wes Foderingham.
James Waghorn, Holt and Walsh all posed a threat before the break as the hosts again went on the attack, but there was not the same snap to Rangers' play after the interval.
Ibrox was left holding its breath 10 minutes into the second half when James Tavernier's trip on McMullen handed Saints a spot-kick. There was relief all round, though, as Thompson ballooned his awful effort.
Despite their narrow lead, Gers continued to pile forward and their reward came late on when Shiels put the matter to rest as he kneed the ball home at the second attempt from fellow sub Templeton's cross.
Rangers: Foderingham,Tavernier,Kiernan,Danny Wilson,Wallace, Holt (Shiels 61),Halliday,Law,McKay (Templeton 84),Waghorn, Walsh (Clark 61). Subs Not Used: Thompson,Aird,Kelly,Hardie.
Goals: Wallace 4,26,Shiels 90.
St Mirren: Ridgers,Naismith,Conlan,Baird,Kelly,McMullan, Howieson (Morgan 67),Carswell,Agnew,Mallan (Gow 82), Thompson (Gallagher 73). Subs Not Used: Goodwin,McLear,Cuddihy,Wilks.
Goals: Howieson 28.
Referee: Kevin Clancy