In a thrilling 90 minutes at Ibrox, the Light Blues won their fifth successive season-opening derby success as they roared back to take the points in style.
They actually began brightly and led through Naismith’s rasper but strikes from Gary Hooper and Badr El Kaddouri had the visitors ahead at the break.
Steven NaismithGers roared back in the only way they know how though, with Nikica Jelavic’s first strike at home against the Parkhead team making it 2-2.
Lafferty and Naismith sealed a real triumph for Ally McCoist, who now has the luxury of a four-point SPL lead just seven games into the 2011/12 term.
He becomes the fifth Rangers manager to win his first derby as boss, following in the footsteps of the legendary Bill Struth, Graeme Souness, Walter Smith and Alex McLeish.
And his men are now 17 games unbeaten in the league, a run which stretches back almost six months to the start of April.
While they wilted for a spell before the break, there’s no doubt Gers merited their success today on an afternoon when many men stood out.
Naismith and Lafferty were both tireless in their efforts to score while the likes of Dorin Goian, Maurice Edu, Carlos Bocanegra and Steven Davis all shone too.
It’s a sign of the times these days at Rangers that manager McCoist found himself having to leave senior first-team players out of his matchday pool.
Obliged to have three under-21 players in the group, Matt McKay and Alejandro Bedoya both missed out on places on the bench with John Fleck and Ross Perry featuring instead.
Of those who did make it, Jelavic and Sasa Papac both returned to the starting line-up after injuries.
The former joined Lafferty up front and with Naismith and Gregg Wylde on the flanks, there was a real attacking look to the home side.
As usual, there was a pulsating atmosphere as the game got underway with both sets of fans providing a colourful, vocal backdrop.
Steven NaismithAnd there was very nearly the perfect start for Gers too when Lafferty charged down away Fraser Forster as he tried to clear but the keeper got away with it.
Jelavic nearly connected with a Wylde free kick too but again Forster got enough on his punch to divert away from his goal.
At the other end, Charlie Mulgrew did well to burst down the left wing and swing a cross in but Bocanegra was there to head away.
Celtic should really have taken a lead when Glenn Loovens connected with the resulting corner but he somehow headed well away from the target.
Georgios Samaras should also have done better from 25 yards than fire well over the bar when he tried to stroke a rising shot into the top corner.
Rangers’ build up play was looking promising, with Davis and Naismith both becoming more involved as time progressed.
The same could be said for Celtic though and with a clear aim to spread the ball out to the left and centre again, they looked threatening too.
For all that, clear-cut chances were still at a premium and neither side showed a cutting edge in the first quarter hour as they continued to suss each other out.
Gers were getting closer though – and midway through the first half they made their breakthrough with an excellent opening goal.
Lafferty was causing problems down Celtic’s left and had just forced them to scramble away for a throw.
But when he found space again on that wing again and crossed low into the box, the ball was only cleared as far as Naismith.
Almost instinctively, he lashed at it with the outside of his right boot and it curled into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Steven NaismithTo Forster’s credit he managed to get a hand to the shot but there was no way he was keeping it out and it was a wonderful finish.
Gers may feel they could have had a second just moments later when good defending from Papac and Bocanegra eventually saw Lafferty released.
He was flagged offside but continued his run all the same as he was in on Forster and a second look at the situation suggested he might have been level when the ball was played.
With that, Celtic pushed forward and enjoyed their first period of sustained pressure – and it resulted in an equaliser coming after 34 minutes.
Their captain Scott Brown was the architect, playing an excellent reverse pass to Hooper and he shot early beyond Allan McGregor to make it 1-1.
It was the first goal the Light Blues had lost in 558 minutes of league football and they set out once again to regain their lead.
Their early efforts were weak, with a Wylde free kick after Jelavic was fouled flying straight into Forster’s arms.
A through ball from Bocanegra to the Croat was then sent with the right intentions but too much weight as well and it was also gathered.
Those mistakes were costly as the game was turned on its head four minutes before half-time, with a rare blunder from McGregor the cause.
El Kaddouri had been exposed when Rangers went ahead but he tried to make amends with what seemed to be a harmless enough shot from long distance.
It was straight at McGregor and should have been a routine collection for the Scotland number one, yet he somehow fumbled it into the net.
Even the best make mistakes and the 29-year-old is certainly one of those but his timing on this occasion was horrific and he’ll have been furious with himself.
Nikica Jelavic celebrates his goal against CelticSuddenly the champions’ back line looked nervous and jittery but they managed to hang on until the break and it was 2-1 at the midway point.
That meant McCoist had some magic to work in the dressing room and just 43 seconds into the second period only the woodwork stopped his team from drawing level.
Wylde’s ball into the area was dealt with properly and when it fell to Davis, his crisp half volley had Forster beaten but it crashed back off the bar.
Whittaker also headed just wide and a tame Wylde shot was hacked away before the hosts wrongly had a goal disallowed for offside.
A clever phase of play culminated with Lafferty firing past Forster and the crowd went wild but straight away Francis Andrews’ flag went up.
On closer inspection of TV replays, Jelavic was certainly offside but not interfering with play – but Lafferty was half a yard on and it was the wrong call.
It was only a matter of time before the equaliser came though and just nine minutes since the game got underway it was 2-2.
Jelavic, quiet by his usual standards so far this term, was the scorer as he rose highest to head down into the ground and back up into the roof of the net from a Davis corner.
It was game on again as a frenetic match took yet another twist with Gers in the ascendancy and now seeking a third to go in front for the second time.
This time it was the Parkhead team that looked rattled but typically of the way the fixture had gone so far, they responded well and looked purposeful as they attempted to lead themselves.
Rangers were certainly on top though and when El Kaddouri was short heading back to Forster, Lafferty nipped between them but poked wide.
Celtic tried to counter the waves of attack they were facing by throwing on Anthony Stokes for the Moroccan.
Ally McCoist celebrates with Kyle LaffertyThey very nearly made it 3-2 moments after his introduction as Loovens headed against the foot of McGregor’s right-hand post with the keeper beaten from Mulgrew’s free kick.
And they rued his miss within seconds as the champions stormed back up the park and took a lead they thoroughly deserved for the character they had shown since the break.
Lafferty – denied his first Old Firm goal almost 20 minutes earlier – was to make no mistake as he continued his fine scoring start to the season.
And after Jelavic was blocked, the Ulsterman suffered the same fate as Celtic throw bodies in his way before he sidestepped them to spark bedlam with a cool finish.
The match had developed into a gripping contest and with more than a quarter of it still to go, there was plenty of time for more twists and turns.
The first came with 15 minutes to go when Mulgrew, booked in the first half for a cruncher on Naismith and treading a fine line ever since, was sent off for a foul on Davis.
Ki Sung-Yeung tried to create a second with a long-range drive but he was well off target and his clear disappointment summed up how things were going for his team.
Lafferty was also off the mark as he sought his second, his last act before being replaced by Lee McCulloch as McCoist consolidated and firmed up his side.
The terrific Naismith was instrumental in a lot of the good things Rangers did and he and Whittaker almost combined to conjure a fourth but it didn’t quite come.
Dorin Goian also got on the end of a rapid Davis free kick but while he ended up in the net, the ball sadly didn’t.
With time ticking down, fourth official Willie Collum indicated as many minutes of additional time – and that was the cue for a fourth goal too.
Naismith had been a thorn in Celtic’s side all day and it was fitting therefore that he rounded off a fantastic match with the clincher.
Just when it seemed Gers were playing for time in the corner, sub David Healy worked it back to Davis and he crossed into the mix.
Naismith was there to steer home and with that, the champions continued their fantastic start to the campaign with a great win.