Former Rangers striker Kris Boyd caused his old side more early-season frustration as his goal helped Kilmarnock to a 1-1 Ladbrokes Premiership draw at Rugby Park.
The frontman was part of a team Ibrox chairman Dave King claimed had “failed miserably” when they missed out on promotion a year ago.
But he put in a vintage display as he netted his 250th goal in British football with the opener against Mark Warburton’s disjointed Gers. James Tavernier did level after the break with a superb free-kick but, even though Killie played out the last half-hour a man light after seeing Greg Taylor sent off for a wild challenge on Joey Barton, the visitors could not find the winning goal.
That means Celtic can overtake their rivals ahead of next month’s Old Firm battle if they beat Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday.
Lee Clark – still searching for the perfect Killie blend after making 15 summer signings – made another six changes for Gers’ visit, with Gary Dicker, Greg Kiltie, Adam Frizzell, Jonathan Burn, Taylor and Dean Hawkshaw all recalled.
The visitors were forced into a last-minute swap as Clint Hill came in for Danny Wilson after the centre-back picked up an injury in the warm-up.
The late change did nothing to harmonise a Gers team who have struggled for fluency so far this term, and that only encouraged a fired-up Killie.
The hosts had a decent claim to a penalty eight minutes in when Hill stopped a Frizzell strike when he raised his hands to protect his face, while Dicker rifled just wide.
The travelling Gers supporters disappointed not to see new signing Joe Garner in the starting line-up were only made to wait 15 minutes before the £1.5million frontman was introduced for the injured Joe Dodoo.
The former Preston poacher’s first touch saw him lash wildly at a Barrie McKay corner, while he was high again as Harry Forrester picked him out soon after.
And he was soon showed how it should be done as Boyd did what he does best.
The 33-year-old had come close with a volley soon after Garner’s introduction, but that effort lacked belief. However, his strike on 28 minutes was reminiscent of the days when he used to score on an almost weekly basis during his first Ibrox stint.
Jonathan Burn cut out a McKay pass and immediately fed Kiltie, who in turn slotted through for the former Scotland hitman. Leaving Hill in his wake, Boyd turned back the years as drove past Wes Foderingham.
Tavernier should have equalised 10 minutes later but blazed over after better work by Garner.
The striker threw himself down theatrically looking for a spot-kick early in the second period after tangling with William Boyle but referee Kevin Clancy was not impressed.
The official did, though, sanction a free-kick on 59 minutes when Hawkshaw tripped McKay and the result was a sublime Tavernier set-piece, the right-back sweeping the leveller over the Killie wall into the top corner.
Clancy then had another decision to make three minutes later when Taylor dived in dangerously high on Barton, but there was no hesitation as he reached for the red card.
With Niko Kranjcar thrown on for Jordan Rossiter, Rangers were finally finding their rhythm.
But Jamie MacDonald did better second time around as he pushed away another Tavernier set-piece before keeping out a late McKay effort as Gers dropped points for the second time in four games.