This was enthralling stuff that opened and closed with a United goal and saw Rangers dominate for the 88 minutes in between without ever looking like killing off their plucky opponents.

Aside from throwing away a two-goal half-time lead, Alex McLeish will be anxious to learn of the condition of both Gavin Rae and Michael Mols who left the field clutching injuries, Rae on a stretcher early in the second half.

The first half thundered by in a blur, with Rangers recovering from losing a goal within 45 seconds to bludgeon United into near submission.

Those opening 45 minutes were to prove particularly cathartic for Steven Thompson who, despite several years’ sterling service at Tannadice, was jeered mercilessly by the home support every time he approached the ball.

Their bating was to prove counter-productive, however, as Thompson first drew Rangers level and then shot them in front inside a frantic opening 13 minutes.

It was a great recovery from a Light Blues after the loss of such an early goal, when Mark Wilson’s free kick was missed in the air by Allan McGregor allowing former Rangers forward Billy Dodds the simple task of rolling the ball into the gaping net from a matter of yards.

Rangers’ response was immediate. After four minutes Michael Ball curled in a wicked free kick that Frank de Boer nodded goalwards only for the ball to clunk off the outside of the post and behind for a goal kick.

The United fans were quick to mock the Dutchman for his miss but were silenced just two minutes later when Gers equalised.

It was a sweet move. Alan Hutton threaded a sweet pass down the line for Chris Burke whose pinpoint cross was bundled over the line from a matter of yards by Thompson.

It was a moment to cherish for the former United man although his “donkey ears” celebration towards the home supporters soon earned him a yellow card.

It was the first in a number of baffling decisions from referee Dougie McDonald, who later deemed a vicious assault by Alan Archibald on Burke not worthy of a yellow card. He was right. It should have been a straight red.

Seven minutes after his equalising strike, Thompson was celebrating again, albeit understandably in much more muted fashion.

A searching pass from de Boer released Stephen Hughes and as he hared into the United penalty box his heels were clipped by the backtracking David McCracken.

Thompson’s connection with the spot-kick was less than crisp but the ball trundled low into the corner of Gallacher’s net to send Rangers in front.

Nostrils flaring, his face contorted into a fusion of rage and determination as he battled to silence his tormentors, the most pertinent question at that stage was what would come first for Thompson: a hat-trick or a red card??

Neither was the answer, although he did lose his striking partner when Mols hirpled off with a groin injury after just 26 minutes who injured himself with a skewed attempt on goal following another great through ball from de Boer.

Mols’ last real involvement in this absorbing contest had came just minutes later when he latched onto Burke’s teasing centre and clattered a drive off the woodwork with Gallacher stranded.

For all Rangers’ dominance, the lack of notches on the scoresheet was a familiar sign for a team who have made a habit of pummelling opponents onto the ropes but then lacking the knockout blow that would finish them off.

Two minutes from half-time, they finally broke through once more, Namouchi fastening onto de Boer’s visionary free kick and slipping the ball beyond Gallacher at the second attempt.

You suspected both teams would have been glad to hear the half-time whistle after such a pulsating opening spell but the pace was only marginally slower when play resumed after the 15-minute hiatus.

Rae saw an early attempt blocked by Alan Archibald but his next involvement – with 52 minutes gone – was to leave the pitch on a stretcher after seeing to catch his studs in the wet grass.

Worst was to follow for Alex McLeish when United handed themselves a lifeline just short of the hour mark.

Wilson’s long ball was nodded on by Alan McLaren for substitute Jason Scotland to thump past McGregor to bring his side back into a match that should have been well beyond them.

Michael Ball seemed to pick up a head knock in the challenge with McLaren and soon left the pitch complaining of concussion, with Mo Ross on in his place.

McLaren passed up two glorious chances soon after to level the match – volleying and then heading excellent crosses wide – as United grew in stature.

Seven minutes from time only a great block by Gallacher – saving Fernando Ricksen’s low drive with his legs – kept his side in the match and right on full-time United earned a point.

Wilson it was who again provided the ammunition, sending in a cross that fell to Scotland who powered in his second goal of the game to bring a roaring game to a typically enthralling conclusion.

DUNDEE UNITED (4-4-2): 1 Gallacher; 21 Wilson, 19 McCracken, 25 Innes, 5 Archibald; 7 Kerr, 4 McInnes (Scotland 46), 14 Dodds, 11 Robson; 8 Miller, 22 McLaren (Samuel 80)

Subs not used: Jarvie, Duff, Easton

Booked: McInnes (9), Robson (23)

RANGERS (4-4-2): 26 McGregor; 32 Hutton, 15 Khizanishvili, 5 F De Boer, 18 Ball (Ross 74); 30 Burke, 2 Ricksen, 27 Hughes, 11 Rae (Vanoli 53); 10 Mols (Namouchi 26), 19 Thompson

Subs not used: Robinson, McCormack

Booked: Thompson (6)

Man of the Match: Steven Thompson

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