Philip McGuire of Aberdeen and Rangers winger Neil McCann saw red in the space of a minute while the Dons’ Thomas Solberg, Derek Young, David Rowson and Jamie McAllister were all booked along with Tugay and Fernando Ricksen.
Rangers were leading thanks to Tugay’s 34th minute strike when a wild tackle by Derek Whyte on the Turk in 66 minutes set the game on fire for all the wrong reasons.
McGuire was sent packing for two bookable offences by the 68th minute while McCann, stupidly, followed him off the field for two acts of retaliation and has now ruled himself out of Saturday’s game with Dunfermline.
With so many selection problems already, Dick Advocaat can ill-afford more suspensions and that is why McCann will find himself in real trouble for his actions.
Due to the length list of absentees, Advocaat opted to push Dutchman Bert Konterman and Fernando Ricksen forward leaving Tugay as the only recognised midfield player in the starting line-up.
He knew he would have a lack of creativity as a result and it was glaringly obvious in the early moments as Rangers looked very ragged indeed, failing to hold the ball or make any decent passing movements.
Konterman certainly did his job well in a defensive sense, but there was little or no sparkle about Rangers’ play which allowed Aberdeen, who had flooded the midfield, to enjoy more possession than they might have thought they would get.
On the positive side Tore Andre Flo and Neil McCann were back in the starting line-up and the towering Norwegian did set up an early opportunity which troubled the Dons’ defence.
Kenny Miller flicked the ball wide for Flo in seven minutes and his cross was aimed at Ricksen but Darren Young managed to get their first to clear for a corner.
It was about the only thing the Rangers fans could get excited about early on, although Sergio Porrini should have done better with cross for Flo in 21 minutes but he played it behind the ex-Chelsea man.
Something had to happen to liven the proceedings and it was Tugay who supplied the moment in 34 minutes to give Rangers the advantage they craved.
The Turkish star could not have picked a better moment to net his first goal of the season and it was a really sweet strike, even if there was a bit of fortune about it.
Derek Whyte conceded a freekick 30 yards out when he made a rash challenge on Flo. Tugay hit the deadball but it hit the Aberdeen wall and returned to his path.
The former Galatasaray midfielder then moved to his left and hammered a left foot shot which flew past David Preece and he raced to the Copand Road stand to take the adulation of the fans.
It was just what Rangers needed to settle them down and they finished the first half strongly, forcing another three good chances which Aberdeen were fortunate to keep out.
Flo laid the ball off sweetly for Miller in 37 minutes and he flashed a left foot shot which Preece fumbled but there was no-one there to take advantage.
A minute later Flo shot over the bar then in 39 minutes McCann’s cross was nearly turned into his own net by Kevin McNaughton and Preece was a relieved man to see the ball fly just over.
Having gained the ascendancy it was fair to assume that Rangers would go on to take real control but it didn’t happen that way. There was still a lack of precision about their play.
Advocaat made a swich in 53 minutes bringing on Allan Johnston for Miller but there was little change to the game. However, the whole evening exploded in the space of three crazy minutes when both sides were reduced to 10 men and there were six yellow cards.
The madness all started when Derek Whyte was dreadfully late with a challenge on Tugay in 66 minutes. The Turkish star reacted angrily and then both David Rowson and Philip McGuire got involved.
John Rowbotham had his work cut out as the players pushed and shoved each other but calmed the situation and booked all three players.
Two minutes later McGuire scythed down McCann provoking a raging reaction from the Rangers winger. The Dons centre back was sent off for a second bookable offence while McCann was booked.
Rangers’ numerical advantage only lasted for 60 seconds, however, as McCann was stupidly sent off for retaliating for a second time when he was fouled by Darren Young.
There is no doubt McCann was fouled but he chased after Young and charged into him, despite being told to keep out of it by Tugay. It was an act of sheer folly which means he misses Saturday’s game with Dunfermline.
It meant that Rangers had a more difficult end to the game than they might have but they managed to secure the win they wanted to cut the gap at the top of the table to nine points.
RANGERS: Klos; Porrini (Malcom 90), Wilson, Vidmar, Numan; Rickse, Konterman, Tugay, McCann; Flo, Miller (Johnston 53). Subs not used – Christiansen, Mols, Hughes.
Sent off: McCann (69).
Bookings: Tugay (66), Ricksen (84)
ABERDEEN: Preece; Solberg, McGuire, Whyte, McNaughton; Guntveit (Stavrum 62), Derek Young, Rowson, Belabed (Mackie 62), Darren Yong; Winters. Subs not used – Esson, Dow
Sent off: McGuire (68)
Bookings: Solberg (29), Derek Young (41), Rowson (66), McAllister (90)
Ref: John Rowbotham.
Man of the match: Tugay
Move of the match: Advocaat’s decision to play Konterman in midfield worked well.