The Rennes midfielder, on loan until the end of the season, was the je ne sais quoi 

Rangers were missing when he scorched a stunning left strike into the right corner in 59 minutes with only his second touch of the ball.

It was the most remarkable introduction to a match for many a year and Rangers went on to scrape a crucial win when Malcolm stabbed the ball over the line in the 90th minute as Well failed to clear a Fernandes corner and that was after going behind in three minutes.

It was another scrappy performance but the result was all important as Rangers now move six points ahead of Hibs with a game in hand to consolidate second place.

The old adage goes that when you are down nothing goes right for you and Rangers found themselves a goal down after only two and a half minutes to make their task all the more difficult.

After the misery of the last week, the last thing Dick Advocaat needed was to lose an early goal but that is precisely what happened. To make it all the more galling it was from a set piece.

Marcus Gayle, operating on the left side of midfield, conceded a freekick when he brought down Motherwell’s new signing Said Chiba.

The Morroccan took the freekick, swinging in a right foot ball and Don Goodman got away from Scott Wilson to power a close range header into the net.

It took Rangers some time to recover from that early blow but Tore Andre Flo came close to equalising in 22 minutes. Skipper Barry Ferguson nodded the ball forward and Flo did well to take it down but shot into the side net.

However, the Ibrox men were fortunate not to lose a second goal a minute later. Douglas Ramsay broke clear on the right and produced a good cross fro Stuart Elliorr who should have scored but headed staright at Stefan Klos.

It was fast becoming another tough day for Rangers, who struggled to cause any real trouble to a Motherwell side who were equally ravaged by selection problems.

Gayle gave Kenny Miller the glimpse of a chance in 25 minutes with a neat flick but the young striker’s left foot shot was easily blocked by Andy Goram. It was The Goalie’s only save in the first half which summed up the lack of Rangers penetration.

Almost immediately, Motherwell were inches away from scoring again when the Rangers defence was caught out by Goram’s long kickout. Lively Chiba was onto it first and his left foot shot took a slight deflection off Wilson’s boot which was enough to send it onto the right hand post.

Rangers just seemed incapable to hurting the Fir Park men, although Ferguson – as usual – was doing his best to cover for the deficiencies of those around him.

The skipper set up Miller in 30 minutes but the former Hibs striker shot over the top and that seemed to sum up the first half for the Ibrox men.

Suitably encouraged by Advocaat at half-time, no doubt, Rangers were much more positive in the early moments of the second half. Indeed they should have equalised in 48 minutes.

Johnston won a corner on the right and took it himself. Gayle won the header brilliantly to beat Goram but James McFadden blocked the ball on the line. It bounced out to Sergio Porrini who should have burst the net but sliced a left foot shot wide from six yards.

Bob Malcolm was then booked for what looked no more than a 50-50 challenge with Chiba after 54 minutes and Advocaat decided that some fresh legs were needed and proceeded to allow Fabrice Fernandes to make the most remarkable impact imagainable.

The little Frenchman came on for Porrini in 59 minutes along with Billy Dodds, who replaced Miller, and within 20 second brought Rangers level with an absolutely sensational left foot strike.

There seemed little danger as he took possession on the left side of the box but he took one touch then smashed a fabulous drive which scorched into the right corner.

It gave new life to Rangers who suddenly had more fluency and purpose to their play and they sensed they could go and win the game.

Flo was not far away with a stabbed shot from Malcolm’s freekick on 70 minutes but that was about as close as they came in a match which will not last long in the memory.

However, in the final minute Bob Malcolm snatched a dramatic winner for Rangers to clinch a crucial win which puts them firmly on course for the second place they crave.

Fernandes won a corner on the right and took it himself. Gayle flicked it on at the near post, Flo headed it back across goal from the back post and Malcolm stabbed the ball over the line.

It was his first goal for the top team and it could not have come at a more opportune moment. With Hibs losing at Dunfermline, Rangers are now six points ahead of the Edinburgh club with a game in hand.

Second place and qualification for the Champions League is now within their grasp, but boy this was a struggle.

MOTHERWELL: Goram; Corrigan, Okoli, Strong: Ramsay (Nicholas 66), Chiba, Leitch, Lasley (Pearson 76), McFadden; Goodman, Elliott (Wood 67). Subs not used – Woods, Macdonald, Pearson.

Bookings: Chiba (65). Lasley (72)

RANGERS: Klos; Malcolm, Wilson, Konterman, Porrini (Fernandes (59); Johnston, Ferguson, Kauppila, Gayle; Flo, Miller (Dodds 59). Subs not used – Christiansen, Leven, Dowie.

Bookings: (Malcolm 54)

Ref: Alan Freeland.

Att: 11,208.

Man of the match: Barry Ferguson

Moment of the match: The stunning debut strike from Fernandes.

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