Inspired by Barry Ferguson, the Ibrox men racked up their greatest win against Celtic for 12 years on a day when they simply had to win and the Ibrox legions could scarcely believe their eyes.
Ferguson led the charge with a captain’s goal while £12million man Tore Andre Flo delivered the crucial second goal. Michael Mols and Ronald de Boer also netted their first Old Firm goals in their first taste of this fixture while past captain Lorenzo Amoruso got the other with a great header.
It was simply an unbelievable day as Rangers not only defied the critics but shoved their scathing words down their throats with an awesome performance which has breathed new life into the title campaign.
Flo had scored on each of debuts for his last two clubs – Chelsea and Brann Bergen – and he duly produced the goods again in a fantastic Rangers win but he should have scored after only two minutes of the showdown.
Claudio Reyna, back in the side after thigh injury problems, made a brilliant run from inside his own half before releasing the towering £12million man who had got away from Joos Valgaeren.
Suddenly Flo was in the clear but as Robert Douglas raced from his line the Norwegian striker pulled his shot agonisingly wide of the left hand post when he seemed certain to score
Undaunted, Rangers created another fantastic opportunity barely 60 seconds later and again Reyna was at the heart of it although the chance largely came about by poor Celtic defending.
Douglas and Johan Mjallby got into a mix-up as Reyna flighted a ball into the box, looking for Flo, and it broke to Ronald de Boer who had a clear goal to aim at as Douglas was stranded on the ground.
Falling backwards, de Boer could not keep his left foot volley down and the Rangers’ fans held their heads in their hands in disbelief as the ball scraped over the crossbar.
It had been an explosive start from the Ibrox side who had made their intentions crystal clear as they did not allow Celtic to get going at all with skipper Barry Ferguson, Jorg Albertz and Reyna controlling the play.
Reyna was a little too over-exuberant, however, in eight minutes when he went in hard on Bobby Petta to earn a yellow card but the challenge certainly set the tone for Rangers’ determination.
Rangers were nearly in again in 10 minutes when Albertz intercepted Stilian Petrov’s intended pass and released Flo, but Celtic captain Tom Boyd made a crucial interception.
Ferguson was leading by example in midfield and Valgaeren had to use unfair means to stop him with a very late tackle in 22 minutes which Kenny Clark rightly booked him for.
Alan Thompson also caught Ferguson with a bad challenge in 43 minutes to also earn a yellow card. Celtic, though, could do nothing to stop the skipper nine minutes earlier when he burst through to score a fantastic opening goal.
Ferguson had started the move when he spread the ball wide to Reyna and then, intelligently, raced forward looking for a return pass.
Reyna duly gave him it and Ferguson showed great composure as he darted into the box and drove a right foot shot low into the left corner.
Ibrox erupted into a wall of noise as Ferguson raced to the enclosure where he was mobbed by his team mates.
Celtic were stunned and they found it hard to come back into the game, other than sporadic attacks. Larsson and Sutton had done nothing in the game but there is always a danger when the Swede is around.
So it proved in 56 minutes when Thompson whipped over a corner from the left and Larsson got in front of Scott Wilson to direct a header past Stefan Klos and suddenly the whole mood of the game threatened to be changed.
However, within a minute Flo made his crucial contribution to restore Rangers’ lead and a famous victory was on the cards.
Reyna’s corner from the left was headed onto the bar by Albertz and Flo reacted quickest to turn the ball into the net with the back of his right heel. Cue bedlam in the Rangers ranks.
The strike gave Rangers new belief and their case was aided further when Thompson was sent off in 64 minutes for a second crude challenge on star man Ferguson and Celtic must have known then it was going to be a black day for them.
Ronald de Boer has had his critics for taking time to settle in Scotland but he made sure of victory with a terrific back-post header from Albertz’s corner in 67 minutes and he almost fell into the Copland Road stand as he celebrated with the fans.
Rampant Rangers, though, were far from finished and proceeded to inflict real pain on their deadly rivals with two more goals to make up for that 6-2 defeat earlier this season.
Again Celtic failed to defend an Albertz corner in 76 minutes and Lorenzo Amoruso, who had played superbly well against Sutton, powered a header into the net from six yards.
Big Amo then went off on a victory celebration all over the park with his arms stretched out like an aeroplane and the fans lapped it up.
There was still another magic moment to come, though, as Michael Mols made it 5-1 five minutes from time to join Flo and de Boer by claiming a goal on his Old Firm debut.
Albertz started the move with a great ball wide to de Boer. His cross was perfect and Mols slammed a right foot shot past Douglas, who had no chance.
They thought the title race was over but Rangers have given five fantastic reasons to show they will not give up their crown without a real fight.
RANGERS: (3-5-2) Klos; Wilson, Konterman, Amoruso; Reyna, Ferguson, De Boer (Tugay 86), Albertz, Numan; Flo (McCann 86), Miller (Mols 60). Subs – Christiansen, Ross.
Bookings: Reyna (8) Wilson (46), Amoruso (49)
CELTIC (3-5-2) Douglas; Mjallby (Mahe 45), Boyd, Valgaeren; Agathe, Petrov, Moravcik (McNamara 45), Thompson, Petta; Sutton (Johnson 86), Larsson. Subs – Gould, Healy.
Sent off: Thompson (64). Bookings: Valgaeren (22), Sutton (49), McNamara (77)
Ref: Kenny Clark.