Lee McCulloch’s penalty gave the Scottish League One title title favourites a sixth-minute lead and they competed well in an encouraging first-half display.

Richard Foster’s mistake allowed Shola Ameobi to grab an undeserved injury-time leveller for United.

But while that took the shine off the night to an extent, the Light Blues can still be pleased with how they went about their business.

With home boss Ally McCoist sitting in the stand, Rangers made the ideal start as they went in front in their first real attack of the game.

And they did so from the penalty spot after Nicky Clark was fouled in the box by Fabricio Coloccini.

It was perhaps a soft award from referee Steven McLean, whose decision drew plenty of protests from the away side.

Nevertheless, McCulloch stepped up to shoot from 12 yards and although Tim Krul guessed the right way, the skipper’s well-placed shot squeezed inside the Dutchman’s left-hand post.

Predictably, Newcastle hit back quickly and Hatem Ben Arfa curled over after Jonas Gutierrez’s cross from the left was only partially cleared by Bilel Mohsni.

Gutierrez was having a great deal of success down that side and his run won a corner which, when sent in, was met ever so well by Mathieu Debuchy.

His stinging volley at the back post was superbly executed by Cammy Bell stood up well to it to fist away.

Back came Gers, with Macleod’s half-volley being deflected away for a throw after some good build-up play.

In the main, however, it was United who had more of the play in an attacking play and Yohan Cabaye’s shot flashed across goal and wide.

Bell then had to be alert to stop then hold Davide Santon’s venomous, twisting drive at the second attempt.

Ben Arfa then had a go after a slaloming run across the midfield but his shot was diverted away for a corner, with Papiss Cisse stretching for the rebound but failing to connect.

For all Newcastle’s pressure, Gers nearly went two ahead shortly before half-time as Lee Wallace’s perseverance set up Jon Daly.

But with one friendly goal to his name already against Emmen, he couldn’t get a second as he failed to dig the ball out from under his feet and the keeper held his on-target attempt.

There were further chances for the Magpies to level before the interval, with Bell saving Cisse’s header from Santon’s ball and Ben Arfa’s 35-yard screamer going just too high.

They couldn’t make a breakthrough though and the sides went in at the midway point with McCoist extremely satisfied with his team’s efforts so far.

Things nearly got better for the hosts after the restart when Clark’s wicked shot needed a helping hand over the bar by replacement keeper Rob Elliot.

Substitute Andy Murdoch also tried his luck but having scored in his last game at Ibrox against Linfield, he didn’t catch the ball at all well.

As further changes were made by each manager, the game lost its pace and didn’t have the same rhythm as it had previously.

But Rangers continued to press and Andy Little, on for Daly, sent a rasper a couple of inches beyond the upright from 20 yards with Elliot beaten.

With that, the pendulum swung the other way as the home team started to take on a more experienced look and Newcastle swapped internationals with internationals.

Shola Ameobi had one shot held by Bell and Cabaye couldn’t hit the mark as the English side tried to make it 1-1.

The keeper then saved really well from Dan Gosling and Foster hacked the loose ball away to safety.

But while he did well there, he was caught out beyond the regulation 90 minutes when his loose pass was intercepted by Sammy Amoebi.

He fed his brother Shola, whose deft chip gave the travelling fans a share of the spoils they didn’t look like getting.

That was a setback but as the final whistle went, it called time on a morale-boosting outing which was much needed after Saturday’s loss at Forfar.

McCoist is still restricted in terms of who he can play against Brechin this coming weekend but this will lift his players considerably ahead of that fixture.

RANGERS: Bell; Foster, McCulloch (Faure 46), Mohsni, Wallace (Hegarty 69); Peralta Aird 79), Black (Murdoch 56), Macleod (Crawford 46), Law (McAusland 63); Clark Daly (Little 58).

SUBS NOT USED: Gallacher, McKay, Gasparotto, Mitchell.

SCORERS: McCulloch pen 5

BOOKING: Peralta.

NEWCASTLE: Krul (Elliot 46); Debuchy, Taylor, Coloccini (Yanga-Mbiwa 74), Santon (Dummett 64); Ben Arfa (Gouffran 46), Tiote (Anita 74), Cabaye (Gosling 81), Gutierrez Sammy Ameobi 81); Sissoko (Marveaux 64), Cisse (Shola Ameobi 74).

SCORERS: Shola Ameobi 90.

BOOKING: Sissoko.

REFEREE: Steven McLean.

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