RANGERS strolled to victory in the sunshine as goals from Kyle Lafferty, Steven Davis and Nikica Jelavic as well as a Steven Naismith double saw them thump Motherwell.
After their 0-0 draw with Celtic last week, the Light Blues travelled to Lanarkshire knowing they had to start another good run of results to keep their title hopes alive.
And ahead of the Parkhead team’s meeting with Dundee United tomorrow, they did so in remarkable style as they dominated for large spells and ran out convincing winners.
With their five strikes, Gers are now within three of having the same goal difference as their Glasgow rivals.
And that could yet prove to be crucial as the championship looks set to go right to the wire.
The Ibrox team now has three matches left to play against Hearts, United then Kilmarnock on the final day of the campaign.
And off the back of this game, they will go into that vital trio of fixtures with confidence soaring after a fine afternoon’s work here.
Despite failing to take some good chances in the Old Firm clash, manager Walter Smith stuck with the same 11 players who had begun the derby and they recorded his 300th league victory with the club as boss.
And they started in determined fashion, creating their first chance in the opening couple of minutes through Maurice Edu.
Well failed to clear Davis’ corner and when Madjid Bougherra volleyed back into the mix, David Weir’s flick gave the American a chance to shoot but he was blocked.
Lafferty was next to have a go when he dispossessed Maurice Ross but his shot was from a tight angle and he might have been better cutting back to Nikica Jelavic.
Back came Motherwell, with former Gers striker Francis Jeffers shooting straight into Allan McGregor’s arms.
Jamie Murphy also slammed a free kick right on the edge of the area into the wall after Madjid Bougherra’s clumsy foul on Keith Lasley.
Stuart McCall’s men were to rue those wasteful misses when Gers then surged upfield and moved in front through Lafferty after 18 minutes.
And having just been punished for committing a foul on Gavin Gunning, the Ulsterman got his own back on the home defender when his mistake presented the chance to shoot.
Davis broke clear in midfield and passed inside and only found Gunning but his slip allowed Lafferty to move in on Darren Randolph.
He then rounded the keeper before slotting in his 10th club goal of the season and reintroducing his celebratory robot dance from the tail end of last term.
The hosts responded well, with Steve Jones bringing out a wonderful save from McGregor as he dived to his left to claw a goalbound volley clear.
Otherwise, Rangers handled whatever Motherwell threw at them with ease and it was only at the Davie Cooper Stand end of the ground it seemed there might be another goal.
Lafferty and Jelavic are growing as a partnership and they linked really well down the left, with the latter laying off for his striking colleague before Ross intercepted.
Then, out of nowhere, Jeffers had a fantastic chance to level when he latched on to a seemingly aimless long ball forward.
But as much as McGregor spread himself superbly to save, the ex-Everton forward was arguably too casual with his finish too.
Steven Hammell was equally slack when another Bougherra foul led to a free kick 25 yards which was promptly fired well over the upright.
Lafferty had the ball in the net moments before the break when Steven Whittaker won a tackle.
With everyone thinking a free kick would be given, the attacker went on to net but was flagged offside by linesman Stephen Mitchell when he was played on by his marker.
Nevertheless, Gers merited their lead at the midway point and set about trying to extend it after the restart.
And six minutes in they made it 2-0 with a good counter-attacking strike from the energetic Davis.
Wylde played a lovely first-time ball beyond the last defender for Naismith but he was forced wide and Randolph saved his effort.
The rebound landed at Davis’ feet though and he tucked a neat finish into the far corner, with Lafferty jumping out of the way to make sure it went over the line.
Seeing their opponents double their advantage seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Steelmen.
And Jelavic might well have added a third after some fabulous football but his rasping attempt from 15 yards smacked the crossbar.
Seconds later, the Croatian thought he had made his way on to the scoresheet when he rose highest to nod in Wylde’s free kick.
But this time the decision from assistant referee Willie Conquer to signal for another offside call was correct, if only just.
Jelavic was in the mood though and he wasn’t to be denied, with his big moment finally coming on 64 minutes.
Sasa Papac did really well to latch on to Wylde’s pass down the left and he hung up a dinked cross which the £4million man couldn’t fail to head in.
The champions were cruising now and were well on their way to a sixth victory in seven SPL games.
But with quarter of the game remaining and bearing in mind Well’s comeback from a similar deficit in their last outing at Hearts, there was a need to see the result out.
Naismith provided the perfect tonic to make absolutely sure of the points 15 minutes from the end with a wonderful finish.
Once again, Wylde was involved as he played a lovely one-two with the Scotland star and he hammered home an unstoppable drive from 25 yards.
With that, the game was over and in the closing stages there was even time for Salim Kerkar to make an unexpected debut from the bench.
As one press box observer said, Rangers were so far ahead they could have brought 64-year-old Colin Jackson on and still not have been in danger of getting pegged back.
It was that kind of day and it ended with a magnificent fifth as Naismith once again struck with a phenomenal effort with the outside of his right boot.
It arrowed into the top corner after he was set up by El-Hadji Diouf and now it’s the Jambos next for the Light Blues as they stubbornly refuse to let go of their title.