Motherwell boosted their hopes of Scottish Premiership survival with a convincing 3-1 victory over Rangers in the first-leg of their play-off encounter.
With Ibrox Stadium full to capacity much was expected of Stuart McCall’s men, but they came up short as Motherwell’s quality shone through.
Having soaked up early pressure from the hosts, Motherwell pounced just before the half hour as Lee Erwin’s shot was deflected beyond his own goalkeeper by Darren McGregor.
Stephen McManus added a second in the final five minutes of the half to give the visitors a commanding lead, the central defender rising unmarked to meet Marvin Johnson’s right-wing free kick.
Two minutes after the restart Rangers’ night got even worse as Lionel Ainsworth was found inside the penalty area following a swift counter attack, and he made no mistake with an emphatic finish past Cameron Bell.
Rangers’ attempts to get back into the game had lacked quality, but they found a lifeline in the tie with seven minutes to play as McGregor atoned for his earlier misdemeanour with a well-placed header.
The defender directed Nicky Law’s corner into the net from six yards, but Rangers still face an uphill battle at Fir Park on Sunday to earn promotion back to the top flight, three years after they were sent to the third tier.