Only belatedly, as though it emerged like an afterthought, did this game rouse itself in the final five minutes. A penalty was awarded, a player sent off, the spot-kick saved and the supporters came to life.
The matter of concern was not just three points, but also a statement of Rangers' sense of worth as they seek to establish their title defence and prepare to enter the Champions' League group stages next week. Having failed to apply themselves to the task of asserting any dominance over their opponents, Rangers left the field nursing profound relief. "We need to be better than that," said a dissatisfied Walter Smith.
Motherwell were sprightly as they probed at the visitors' defence in the closing minutes, but there was good fortune in their penalty award. The striker Lukas Jutkiewicz fell languidly over Madjid Bougherra's outstretched leg as the two tussled at the edge of the penalty area. The Rangers defender was agitated by the decision and continued his dissent after being booked, prompting the referee to show him a second yellow card. Bougherra sought out the referee after the match to deliver an apology.
Jim O'Brien stepped up to take the kick, but the superbly agile Allan McGregor blocked his well-struck effort.
Bougherra himself had almost opened the scoring on the brink of half-time, but the diligent Motherwell goal- keeper, John Ruddy, saved his close-range header.
Meanwhile Celtic were held 1-1 at home to Dundee United and remain level on points with Rangers at the top of the table.
The game between Hearts and Kilmarnock at Tynecastle was postponed after a chemical spill caused severe traffic congestion on the M8.Reuse content