Ten-man Rangers clung on for a 2-1 victory over Aberdeen after Ryan Jack’s Pittodrie return ended in red card controversy.
Ibrox caretaker boss Graeme Murty had backed the former Dons skipper to keep his cool as he ran out at his old stomping ground for the first time with his new club.
But Jack lasted just 56 minutes before collecting his fourth red card in just 19 appearances since his Ibrox switch — although two were later rescinded — after crunching into Reds frontman Stevie May.
Goals from Danny Wilson and Josh Windass were enough to seal Gers’ second win over Derek McInnes’ team — who hit back with a stunning free-kick from teenager Frank Ross — this week as they overtook the Dons to move into second spot.
The defeat could yet end up being a sorry swansong for McInnes, with Rangers chairman Dave King understood to be readying himself to offer the current Ibrox vacancy to the former Light Blues midfielder.
Yet McInnes showed no sign of split loyalties before the match as he went on the offensive after Wednesday’s 3-0 Ibrox loss, recalling attackers Adam Rooney, Scott Wright and Greg Stewart to his line-up.
But an injury to centre-back Bruno Alves forced Murty to recall David Bates for his first game since the club’s Europa League humiliation against Progres Niederkorn.
As expected, no quarter was given as both sides flew into some meaty tackles early on.
But it was Rangers who drew first blood with Wilson’s opener 14 minutes in.
Graeme Shinnie’s barge on Jason Holt gave Declan John the chance to swing in free kick from wide. The Welshman’s delivery was packed with menace but the Dons were culpable as they allowed Wilson to wander free before looping a fantastic header into the top corner.
Strangely, the goal seemed to take the heat out of the contest and the action cooled.
Rooney wasted a decent chance on the half-hour mark, while Dons keeper Joe Lewis did well to push away a Windass snap shot.
Aberdeen then came within inches of equalising on the stroke of half-time when they struck the crossbar. Greg Stewart picked out Andrew Considine with another pin-point set-piece but his header crashed against the woodwork.
Wilson had to go off at the break and his replacement Fabio Cardoso made himself useful just three minutes in as he blocked May’s firm strike.
At the other end Lewis again did well to get a strong wrist to Kenny Miller’s shot after Carlos Pena sent the veteran hitman scampering in behind.
The big talking point came after 56 minutes as Jack’s follow through after playing a pass saw him plant his studs into May’s ankle. A look of disbelief quickly spread across the midfielder’s face as referee Willie Collum immediately reached for his red.
But the dismissal did not hold the Light Blues back and they doubled their lead after 63 minutes. James Tavernier’s burst forward left Aberdeen scrambling for cover but there was no stopping Daniel Candeias as he slotted a perfect ball across for Windass to finish from close range.
The deficit was trimmed back just two minutes later as young substitute Ross whipped a perfect free kick past Wes Foderingham.
Aberdeen threw everything at their opponents in the closing stages but Cardoso again came to Rangers’ rescue in stoppage time as he headed Stewart’s shot off the line.