Steven Naismith, who will travel south for a trial with Arsenal this week, scored an injury-time penalty yesterday to earn Kilmarnock that rarest of commodities - a point against Rangers. Until the Scotland Under-21 midfielder slammed the ball home, it had seemed all but certain that the Glasgow giants would head back up the M77 with all three points after a pulsating last half-hour.
Before yesterday, Kilmarnock had failed to take a single point from Rangers in 13 League meetings stretching back more than four years. Not only that, it looked likely that Kris Boyd, who moved to Ibrox for £400,000 in January, was going to be his old club's tormentor-in-chief yet again. He had already played and scored in two wins for Rangers since his move, and scored both Rangers goals yesterday, but it was not to be third time lucky.
Paul Le Guen's team therefore missed the chance to move to the top of the Scottish Premier League table and must settle instead for third place, a point behind Celtic and Hearts.
The front two maintained momentum on Saturday with home wins in contrasting fashion. The reigning champions came from behind at Parkhead to beat Hibernian 2-1. Celtic's new £3.4m Netherlands international striker, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, scored the winner after making his debut from the bench.
Hearts thrashed Inverness Caledonian Thistle 4-1 with a team featuring five players making their first League appearances for the club. Three of them scored, including the Chilean forward Mauricio Pinilla.
Rangers posed little threat for almost 10 minutes at Rugby Park yesterday, mainly thanks to Garry Hay, the Kilmarnock left-back, disrupting the supply chain from Libor Sionko on Rangers' right flank.
Boyd was presented with the first chance after 15 minutes from Brahim Hemdani's slide rule pass, but shot wide. Rangers then started to click, with Dado Prso and Jeremy Clement linking well to set up Sionko, whose effort was saved.
The same two players created the opener for Boyd just before half-time. Clement passed to Prso, who dribbled to the 18-yard area, dinked the ball into the box, where Boyd side-stepped two defenders to score.
Kilmarnock had two first-half penalty appeals turned down, but neither claim was huge. The ball hit Boyd's hand in his own box but it was clearly ball-to-hand and then Clement collided with Naismith, but it was momentum, not malice. A Killie chance then fell to Danny Invincible - the Australian was one of only two non-Scots in the home side's squad of 18 - but his shot was blocked by Alan Hutton, one of six Scots in Le Guen's 18.
Killie equalised with a header from Frazer Wright at a corner. Lee Martin went close twice, so too Prso, and Invincible again at the other end, before Prso set up Boyd for 2-1. Hutton handled at the death for the penalty, which Naismith scored.
Goals: Boyd (43) 0-1; Wright (63) 1-1; Boyd (85) 1-2; Naismith (90 pen) 2-2.
Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Smith; Murray, Greer, Wright, Hay; Naismith, Fowler, Leven (Fernandez, h-t), Invincible; Johnston (Dodds, 82), Nish (Wales, h-t). Substitutes not used: Bell (gk), Di Giacomo, O'Leary, Adams.
Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Svensson, Rodriguez, Smith; Sionko (Sebo, 74), Hemdani, Clement, Martin (Buffel, 74); Prso (Rae, 87), Boyd. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Adam, N'Diaye, Ponroy.
Referee: A Freeland.
Booked: Kilmarnock Murray.
Man of the match: Prso.