A majestic second-half strike from Nacho Novo gave Rangers a 1-0 win in the 2009 Homecoming Scottish Cup final and secured a domestic double in the process.
After a grueling season every one of Walter Smith’s men had to dig deep in to their energy reserves to beat a Falkirk team that pushed them all the way in the last game of 2008/09.
The Hampden surface was bathed in glorious sunshine throughout the match and the opening half hour was an open contest between two teams that had achieved their desired league position on the final day of the season.
Rangers, of course, were worthy champions while the Bairns celebrated staying in the SPL thanks to a crucial victory over relegated Inverness.
Clearly buoyed from this result Falkirk were the dominant side in the first-half of this intriguing encounter with former Ibrox star Neil McCann a constant thorn.
The left winger skimmed the cross bar with 20 yard rocket after only 13 minutes although the ease in which he was allowed to shoot would have been a concern to Walter Smith sitting in the stands.
Only seven minutes later Darren Barr marauded down the right and his low cross was met perfectly by McCann on the turn.
Thankfully the ball flew across Neil Alexander’s goal and inches wide. The Falkirk fans at the other end of the stadium thought it was in and so did their manager in the away dug-out.
At this stage Rangers were not at the races with the midfield sitting too deep and Boyd and Miller isolated in attack.
As the game continued the giant screens showed Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist pointing furiously as a clip board and it was clear this afternoon was not going according to plan.
As the first-half petered out Falkirk continued to press the Gers backline although a Davie Weir header from a Steve Davis free-kick was net bound before it was deflected over.
This, however, was the closest Rangers came to opening the scoring in a disappointing first-half and Craig Thomson’s half-time whistle came at a welcome time for Smith who stormed up tunnel to give his thoughts on proceedings.
It was almost inevitable that a change would be made for the restart and it was Kris Boyd that made way for Novo.
The manager wanted his Spanish star to make an immediate impact and he did this and much, much more.
After only 36 seconds on the pitch he received the ball 35 yards from goal and lashed a right-foot shot which dipped and swerved before hitting the net and leaving his countryman Dani Mallo clutching at thin air.
It was a stunning goal and it was just what the doctor ordered for Rangers side in need of an injection.
To be fair to Falkirk they fought back and showed a level of spirit and determination Hughes was renowned for.
But Smith’s half-time team talk, and his decision to change his tactics to a 4-5-1, clearly had the desired effect with Lafferty working tirelessly up top and the midfield five protecting the back four; something they failed to do in the first-half.
After Nacho’s moment of magic clear cut scoring chances were few and far between with both teams failing to find an inventive final pass to unlock the opposing defence.
After a grueling season at both ends of the SPL table it was perhaps understandable that tiredness was setting in and in a last throw of the dice Hughes decided to make three substitution with Higdon, Stewart and Finnigan replacing McBride, McCann and Cregg respectively.
Like Smith’s switch at half-time the Bairns change almost paid immediate dividends when a good move resulted in Finnigan hammering the ball home from close range. Fortunately the Main Stand linesman had already raised his flag for offside.
With ten minutes remaining Novo had a great chance to double his side’s advantage.
Miller sprinted clear of the defence and his powerful cut-back was clipped over by the Gers’ no. 10 from six yards.
At the other end Falkirk came so close to a dramatic equaliser. After a scramble in the box the ball found its way to Lovell at the back post and his shot trundled across goal and clipped the far post before being cleared to safety.
Naismith and Dailly were both introduced for Miller and Lafferty in the latter stages and they can both say they played their part in helping Rangers clinch a tremendous double.
Credit must go to Falkirk for their contribution but having already won the SPL this was a special moment for the Gers’ fans who watched their heroes lift their second trophy of a truly memorable campaign.