Barry Ferguson – so often the hero for the Light Blues – was the villain on this occasion as he missed a penalty in either half, seemingly sending the Light Blues to their second consecutive league defeat.
Remarkably, referee John Rowbotham then awarded Rangers a third penalty -with Dundee leading 2-1 with just six minutes remaining – that Mikel Arteta bravely slipped past Julian Speroni to give his side a lifeline and kept their title dreams alive.
A draw was not the result Rangers had hoped for with Celtic breathing down their necks but they gratefully accepted it after being second-best to the Dens Park side for large chunks of the match.
The Light Blues now lead their Glasgow rivals by three points but the Parkhead side could draw level if they win their game on hand at Motherwell this Wednesday.
Such a fate had seemed unlikely following an astonishing start when Alex McLeish’s side went into the lead after only 37 seconds.
After keeping possession from kick-off, Arteta slid a pass into Arthur Numan whose cross was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Lee Wilkie.
It was a dream start for Rangers and they had several further chances to increase their lead throughout an incident-packed first half.
Ferguson shot tamely into Julian Speroni’s hands before the goalkeeper saved bravely at the feet of Michael Mols and then did well to block a stinging drive from Ricksen.
Dundee were no spectators in this opening act, however, and looked lively every time they collected the ball and ran towards Stefan Klos’ goal.
Gavin Rae and Georgi Nemsadze were finding a lot of space in the heart of the midfield and the Scot fired a drive that was well held by Klos and a minute later his Georgian team-mate shot over from a good position.
Rangers should have gone further ahead when Peter Lovenkrands slashed wildly at a pass from Arteta with the goal at his mercy as the Light Blues – as they have all season – missed an abundance of chances.
They were made to pay for their profligacy after 17 minutes when Dundee equalised through the impressive Fabian Caballero.
Craig Moore was dispossessed by Steve Lovell in his own half allowing Beto Carranza to find Caballero on the edge of the penalty box.
With minimum backlift, the Argentinian placed a perfect shot in the far left corner that gave Klos no chance.
Worse was to follow 11 minutes later. Ricksen’s pass intended for Ferguson was intercepted by Zurab and his pass released Caballero.
Bob Malcolm – in for the injured Lorenzo Amoruso – allowed the Dundee goalscorer a free run at goal from the halfway line and when he reached the penalty box he despatched another clinical finish to put Dundee in front.
An exhilarating match was to take two more dramatic turns just before the break when Rangers had a goal chopped off then missed a penalty just a minute later.
De Boer thought he had drawn the Light Blues level when he headed Lovenkrands’ cross low past Speroni only for the assistant referee to halt the celebrations with his flag.
Sixty seconds later and Rangers had their first spot-kick of the match when Wilkie fouled Mols but Ferguson smacked his free kick against the crossbar and the ball was cleared before Rowbotham blew for half-time.
The second half was no less dramatic as play raged from end to end as Rangers chased the goals they needed for the title and Dundee tried to cling on to their lead.
Ricksen had a free kick well saved by Speroni before Arteta had another effort cleared off the line by Dave Mackay.
The real drama, however, took place in the last 10 minutes when Rangers were awarded two further penalties.
Shota Arveladze – on for Lovenkrands – contested a hopeful long ball only for Wilkie to inexplicably barge him to the ground.
Skipper Ferguson again took responsibility but he was to be disappointed once more from the spot as Speroni guessed correctly and dived to his left to save the shot.
With Rangers’ title hopes hanging by a thread, they were thrown yet another lifeline when they were awarded their third penalty of the match.
Ferguson’s corner – as an immediate result of his saved penalty – was punched away by Mackay giving the Light Blues their third chance to beat Speroni from 12 yards.
The Gers captain this time stood aside, allowing Arteta to coolly finish to haul his side back into the match.
Rangers threw everyone forward in the hope of scraping another goal to sneak the victory but could not fashion out a clear-cut opportunity and had to settle for a point.
Whether they will go on to lift the title or not may now come down to how many goals they can score in the coming weeks – assuming they can win their remaining three matches, that is.
DUNDEE: (4-4-2): 12 Speroni; 3 Mackay, 6 Wilkie, 13 Zurab, 16 Hernandez; 5 Carranza (Milne 75), 2 Smith, 8 Rae, 10 Nemsadze (Mair 90); 7 Caballero, 25 Lovell (Burchill 75)
Subs not used: Langfield, Novo
Booked: Lovell (46), Hernandez (61), Mackay (83)
RANGERS (4-3-3): 1 Klos; 17 Muscat (Hughes 80), 3 Moore, 12 Malcolm. 5 Numan; 2 Ricksen, 23 Arteta, 6 Ferguson; 14 de Boer (Caniggia 66), 10 Mols, 26 Lovenkrands (Arveladze 66)
Subs not used: McGregor, Konterman
Booked: Muscat (37), Malcolm (74)
Man of the Match: Arthur Numan