RANGERS and Hibernian played-out the most incredible final match of the Scottish Premiership season at Easter Road this afternoon.
Trailing 3-0 at one stage, the Gers turned the game on its head to lead 5-3 before the home side struck twice late-on to unbelievably make it 5-5.
The Light Blues went into the game hopeful of overtaking Aberdeen and claiming second spot in the table. However, while the result in Leith was an unforgettable one, it mattered little to Gers with the Dons defeating Celtic at Parkhead to ensure they end the season as runners-up.
In what was a sold-out crowd at Easter Road, the smaller than normal travelling support were certainly making themselves heard, hoping to roar their side on to what they hoped would be a crucial victory.
The opening minutes were pretty scrappy, and a loose touch from Russell Martin handed Hibs the first chance of the game, with Scott Allan dancing his way into the area before firing wide.
Just after that, the home side were awarded a penalty. Off the ball, Jamie Maclaren went down under the challenge of David Bates inside the area, with referee Andrew Dallas immediately pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Florian Kamberi to take, and he drove the ball into the roof of the net with Jak Alnwick going the wrong way in any case.
Alnwick then came to the rescue of his side not long after the restart, denying Kamberi from close-range as the home side looked to double their advantage.
Then on 18 minutes, they did indeed grab a second goal. At the back post, Vykintas Slivka got above Andy Halliday to knock the ball down for the incoming Allan to fire home.
Two minutes later, it was three. Jamie Maclaren was afforded too much space in the box, and he headed into the back of the net.
Gers looked rattled to say the least, but in the space of two crazy minutes, they had haled themselves back into the game. From a Hibs corner first of all, they broke at pace, forcing a four on three. The ball went right to Jason Holt and he crossed for the incoming James Tavernier to finish first time.
The goal seemed to deflate Hibs’ momentum, and the visitors took advantage, grabbing a second goal soon afterwards.
A lovely run inside from Jamie Murphy ended with him slipping in Jordan Rossiter, and after taking a touch to steady himself, he fired low past Ofir Marciano.
From there, the break-neck pace of the game cooled, with Rangers getting their foot on the ball a little more and beginning to play some superb football on the lush Easter Road turf.
Then, with 39 minutes on the clock, sensationally, Gers drew level. A powerful Murphy run was ended by Efe Ambrose 25-yards from goal for a free-kick. Bruno Alves, who had come on not too long before to replace Sean Goss, stood over the ball, almost Cristiano Ronald-esque.
He got the ball over the wall with power, it beat Marciano, and it nestled in the corner of the goal to incredibly draw his side level.
It almost got better before half-time for Rangers, with Ambrose short with a header back to Marciano. In-nipped Jason Cummings, and after being forced wide, Ambrose got back to clear his shot from an angle off the line.
The second half began with Hibernian on the front foot, forcing Rangers back with a series of corners that were well-dealt with.
Then, in the 55th minute, Gers broke away. A ball over the top from Tavernier sent Cummings away down the right. He was held up but managed to get the ball inside to Jamie Murphy.
He spotted the incoming Jason Holt at the back post, and with the aid of a deflection, his shot was carried beyond Marciano to send the already jubilant band of Glaswegian supporters behind that goal into utter overdrive.
It almost got better five minutes later, with a fabulous Tavernier cross finding the head of Jamie Murphy on the penalty spot, only for Marciano to deny him with a stunning save.
Marciano then came again to the rescue of Hibs with another brilliant stop, this time denying Tavernier following some great work from substitute Josh Windass.
If another goal was to come, it was surely going to come the way of the Light Blues, and indeed it did on 68 minutes.
After Tavernier won the ball in the middle of the park, Jason Holt was able to charge forward and let fly from around 25-yards. His shot took a massive deflection off Windass and it looped up and over Marciano and into the back of the net.
This was drama upon drama, and it continued, with Hibs hitting back with a fourth straight after the restart. Gers hadn’t set themselves correctly, and the ball ran through to Maclaren to send the ball beyond Alnwick and into the net.
Rangers could have made it six, with Marciano again denying Murphy, although in the build-up, there was a hint of hand-ball from a home defender inside the area.
With five minutes to go, Rangers were reduced to 10 men, with Jason Holt sent off for a second yellow card for pulling back John McGinn on the halfway line.
That dismissal was to prove costly, as in the dying minutes, Alnwick was forced into a good stop from Dylan McGeouch before in injury time, after a goalmouth scramble, Maclaren scored again to make it 5-5.
The Rangers players looked shattered on the field, but they were handed the chance to perhaps win the game with the final play of the game, as they were awarded a free-kick 25-yards from goal.
Alves stepped-up to take once more, but hit the wall before referee Dallas brought one of the most astonishing games Rangers have ever taken part in to a close.
RANGERS: Alnwick; Tavernier, Martin, Bates, Halliday; Rossiter (Hodson, 68), Goss (Alves, 28), Holt; Candeias, Cummings (Windass, 62), Murphy.
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Herrera, O’Halloran, Docherty.
HIBERNIAN: Marciano, Whittaker, Hanlon, McGinn, Slivka ((McGregor, 70), McGeouch, Stevenson (Swanson, 86), Maclaren , Kamberi, S Allan (Barker, 65), Ambrose.
SUBS NOT USED: Dabrowski, Gray, Bartley, L Allan.
REFEREE: Andrew Dallas