With second-place Hearts beating Falkirk 2-1 it was imperative that Alex McLeish’s side picked up a win although it looked as though a goal would never come in what was a nervy 90 minutes for the home support.
In the end, Soto’s 70th minute goal was enough to clinch the victory and the relief around Ibrox Stadium at the final whistle was palpable.
Stefan Klos made a surprise return to the manager’s starting line-up for today’s league clash and he received a warm welcome from the Gers’ faithful.
The goalkeeper, who last featured in the CIS Cup match with Celtic on November 9, replaced Ronald Waterreus who dropped out altogether through illness. Scott Gallacher, just 16, took Klos’ seat on the bench.
Der Goalie’s re-appearance was one of three changes made by McLeish from the team that drew 1-1 with Hearts last Sunday with Steven Smith also replacing Ian Murray at left-back and Kris Boyd getting the nod ahead of Peter Lovenkrands.
Jim Leishman would have been hoping that his side could bounce back from the disappointment of being beaten 3-0 in last weekend’s CIS Cup Final but Rangers, as expected, dominated the early play.
The home side’s first chance came on nine minutes when Dado Prso tried a speculative overhead kick and his strike partner Boyd glanced a header towards goal but Bryn Halliwell produced a fine stop with his legs.
Boyd, looking for his 28th goal of an impressive campaign, again came close a minute later when he rose above the Pars’ defence but his looping header landed on the roof of the visitor’s net.
Prso’s desire to get on the scoresheet was evident from the first whistle and the Croatian hitman was unlucky when his spectacular 25-yard strike rattled the post and Boyd was unable to convert the rebound from a tight angle.
The 45 Dunfermline supporters that travelled to Ibrox this afternoon would have been more than a little concerned at their side’s inability to keep the ball and it seemed only a matter of time before the Light Blues would take the lead.
Barry Ferguson was next up to try his luck on 19 minutes. Stevie Smith showed his ability to get forward with a darting run that took him past three Dunfermline players but when he found his captain in the box Halliwell again produced an excellent diving save from close range.
After 30 minutes it was somewhat miraculous that Rangers had not got their noses in front as Burke and Ferguson both tested Halliwell’s resolve again with long-range efforts.
News that Hearts had taken a first-half lead at the Falkirk Stadium started to filter through to sections of the home support and many started to voice their frustration at their side’s inability to convert one of their many goalscoring opportunities.
Dunfermline held out until the half-time interval and Leishman must have been relieved that his side were still in with a fighting chance of getting a draw after a first-half battering.
With Hearts now drawing with the Bairns at half-time, it was no surprise to see the Rangers players upping the tempo again at the start of the second period although Klos had to look sharp to deny Gary Mason with his first save of the match a minute into the re-start.
It was clear that McLeish had instructed his players to get the ball wide to Burke at every given opportunity and the lively winger, not for the first time this season, looked like the one player capable of cutting open the Pars’ defence.
Rangers continued to apply almost constant pressure on the visitors backline and Prso was guilty of squandering a great chance on 50 minutes when the ball dropped to him in the box but he blazed his wayward effort high into the Copland Road Stand.
Thomas Buffel had a quiet afternoon by his standards and Halliwell once again showed his shot-stopping ability to deny the Belgian international on 57 minutes.
Prso picked the ball up on the right after receiving a pass from Burke and the striker’s low cross fell to Buffel 15 yards out but his high shot was parried over by the in-form goalie.
With Rangers now in desperate need of a goal to settle the growing nervousness within Ibrox Stadium, McLeish elected to make his first change of the match by replacing Buffel with Peter Lovenkrands.
His impact was immediate and within two minutes Rangers had taken the lead.
The Dane showed his pace on the right wing to take the ball past Mason and his delightful near-post cross was glanced home by Kyrgiakos.
The towering defender ran straight to his manager to celebrate his first league goal, his third of the season, and it proved to be decisive.
Rangers held on to their slender advantage until the final whistle although Klos had to be alert to produce a magnificent save from Andy Tod in the last minute of the game.
McLeish stated in his pre-match press conference that winning was more important than putting on a good show and, in many ways, that proved to be the case this afternoon.
RANGERS: 1 Klos; 20 Hutton, 14 Kyrgiakos, 16 Rodriguez, 34 Smith; 17 Burke (Novo 85), 7 Hemdani, 6 Ferguson, 9 Prso ; 15 Boyd, 4 Buffel (Lovenkrands 68)
Subs not used: Gallacher, Andrews, G Rae, Murray, N’Guessan
DUNFERMLINE: 20 Halliwell; 2 Shields, 3 Wilson, 6 Thomson, 19 Labonte; 23 Ross (Tarachulski 84), 28 Muirhead (Daquin 75), 10 Makel (McCunnie 57), 8 Mason; 18 Tod, 14 Donnelly
Subs Not Used: Shaw, Tarachulski, A. Campbell, I. Campbell
Referee: Brian Winter
Man of the Match: Chris Burke