Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty ended 10-man Dundee United’s spirited resistance as his header secured a 1-0 win at Tannadice on Saturday.
Ally McCoist’s team had the numerical advantage for over an hour after United midfielder Johnny Russell was sent off in the first half for a head-butt on Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot.
It took until 16 minutes into the second half before the Scottish champions finally made the breakthrough thanks to Lafferty’s bullet header and that was enough to keep the Glasgow club top of the table.
McCoist was without star striker Nikica Jelavic due to injury, but Lafferty, Dorin Goian, Steven Naismith were all fit to start, leaving new signing Matt McKay to settle for a place on the bench.
United nearly took the lead in the opening moments when Willo Flood’s shot flashed wide after deflecting off Steven Davis.
Rangers’ response was immediate and Juan Manuel Ortiz set up Lafferty, only for the forward to miscue his strike before Naismith blasted over from close range from a Gregg Wylde cross.
United’s hopes were severely dented when Russell suffered a rush of blood to the head and head-butted Broadfoot after a clash with the Rangers defender.
Referee Callum Murray immediately showed Russell the red card and also booked Broadfoot for his part in the incident.
Rangers had a chance to open the scoring after that when Naismith raced onto a Maurice Edu pass only to lash wide.
Lafferty squandered a chance when he met a Naismith cross and directed a header across the face of goal.
But Lafferty finally hit the target in the 60th minute when he met Wylde’s cross with a powerful header that raced into the top corner.
Rangers midfielder Davis should have added a second goal when he surged into the area and saw his shot smack off one post before crashing off the other and rebounding to safety.
Garry Kenneth came to United’s rescue when he hooked a goal-bound effort from Naismith to safety.
But remarkably Rangers finished on the back foot and John Rankin grazed a post with a long-range effort before Gavin Gunning headed over in the final seconds.