Two goals from Scotland’s top scorer Kris Boyd secured a valuable win for the Light Blues and it helps to heap some pressure on second place Hearts who face Aberdeen at Tynecastle tomorrow night.
Alex McLeish made two changes from his side that beat Kilmarnock 3-1 last weekend.
Marvin Andrews, who bagged a double at Rugby Park after coming on as a second half substitute, retained his place in the team and he was joined in the heart of defence by Sotirios Kyrgiakos who was returning from a one-game suspension. They replaced Julien Rodriguez and Alan Hutton.
Peter Lovenkrands was back from injury and started on the bench while the manager also included Murray Park starlets Moses Ashikodi and Steven Lennon in his squad.
Hibs, who are chasing a European slot after an impressive season, started the match in a confident manner with the dangerous Sproule using his pace to good effect.
The Leith side had chances to capitalise on their early pressure and Celtic-bound Gary Caldwell, in particular, will have been disappointed not put his side ahead when the ball dropped to him in the box after seven minutes but his touch let him down.
Rangers had chances of their own and Boyd almost started the match in style when Chris Burke found his teammate with a terrific pass but Malkowski narrowed the angle before making a fine stop.
The windy conditions made life difficult for both sets of players and a lot of the football in the first-half was scrappy and uninspiring.
But in Boyd, Rangers could well have found the new Ally McCoist and his opening goal on 36 minutes once again highlighted his instinctive poaching ability.
Dado Prso picked the ball up in the last third of the park and played a delightful through ball to Thomas Buffel who had beaten Hibs’ offside trap.
The Belgian international played the ball beyond Malkowski and Boyd was on hand to fire the ball into the empty net for his 34th goal of a fantastic campaign.
The travelling Gers’ supporters celebrated ecstatically in the away end of a packed Easter Road but there were no more goals scored in the first-half, although Boyd was perhaps a bit unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when his shirt was pulled by Caldwell on the stroke of half-time.
Lovenkrands replaced Thomas Buffel for the start of the second-half and could have doubled his side’s advantage after only three minutes.
The industrious Prso found the Dane sprinting through on goal but his rushed finish was palmed around the post by the diving Hibs’ keeper.
The miss almost proved costly as Sproule, who had already scored four times against the Gers’ this term, fired in a shot from right wing which had Waterreus scrambling to his near post to make a save.
The weather was to deteriorate further before the hour mark and the constant downpour made the playing surface even more perilous.
Derek Riordan tried to use this to his advantage on 63 minutes when he cut in from the left wing before unleashing a fierce shot from 25 yards which skimmed off the turf and narrowly missed the goal.
Lovenkrands, who was looking sharp on his comeback, then tried a similar effort from long range but his effort failed to trouble Malkowski.
Prso’s enthusiasm saw him pick up a yellow card for a foul on Sproule but things were to worse when Hibs equalised on 71 minutes.
Riordan used his deadball expertise to whip in a cross from the left and the ball came off the head of the unfortunate Brahim Hemdani before hitting the net.
The Hibs’ fans joy was to be short lived as Rangers edged their way back in front only seven minutes later and, not surprisingly, it was Boyd who was again the hero.
Prso was the architect when he fed an inch perfect pass to the hitman and he finished with ease past the helpless Hibs’ goalie before celebrating goal number 35 of the season.
Ian Murray had to be taken off after picking up a nasty head knock with seven minutes remaining but Alex Rae stepped in and Rangers held on to claim all three points from a hard-fought battle.
HIBERNIAN: Malkowski; Whittaker, Caldwell, Konde, Shields, Murphy, Riordan (Lynch 78), Glass, Shiels (Konte 71), Sproule, Fletcher (Dalglish 50)
Subs Not Used: Brown, Murray, McCluskey, Smith
RANGERS: Waterreus; Murray (A. Rae 83), Andrews, Smith; Burke, G. Rae, Hemdani, Prso, Boyd, Buffel (Lovenkrands 45)
Subs Not Used: Klos, Novo, Malcolm, Ashikodi, Lennon
Bookings: Caldwell Riordan
Referee: Mike McCurry
Man of the Match: Kris Boyd