Nacho Novo was Rangers hero as they achieved the perfect pre-UEFA Cup Final boost with a 3-1 victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Premier League on Saturday.
Two early goals from the Spaniard, the second a sensational strike from 20-yards, and a late Jean-Claude Darcheville goal – after Mark de Vries had pulled one back for the visitors – secured the win.
The result also means the Ibrox side are now only a point behind SPL leaders Celtic, having played a game less.
Only an injury to Kevin Thomson, who limped off early in the second half and will now be a major worry for Wednesday's UEFA Cup Final against FC Zenit St Petersburg, dampened the spirits of the Rangers fans in the 50,293 crowd.
But there was plenty of controversy to anger United manager Craig Levein after his side had a strong penalty claim waved away and a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside.
The visitors had the first chance of the match when Noel Hunt headed wide from six-yards in the fifth minute when he should have at least tested the home side's goalkeeper Neil Alexander.
Two minutes later, though, Rangers had the early goal they were looking for to settle their nerves.
Thomson's free-kick from the left found Novo at the back post and the Spaniard headed beyond United's Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska for his 15th goal of the season.
The Rangers fans hailed the goalscorer – who had converted the crucial spot-kick which took the Ibrox side to UEFA Cup Final.
And in the 18th minute Novo heightened his popularity further with a stunning left-foot shot from the corner of the 18-yard box which flew over Zaluska into the opposite top corner of the net.
United were clinging on at this stage and only brave save from Zaluska at the feet of Kirk Broadfoot prevented them falling further behind in the 27th minute.
The Tannadice team slowly began to get a foothold in the match and they almost levelled in the 41st minute.
Gers goalkeeper Alexander raced out of the penalty area to tackle Hunt, but the ball fell to David Robertson and from 35-yards he shot towards the empty goal only to see the home side's Kevin Thomson race back to head clear.
On the stroke of half-time United's Dutch striker Mark De Vries could have given his side hope for the second half but his powerful shot from 12-yards was slapped away by Alexander.
United could have had a penalty in the 54th minute, when Rangers defender David Weir appeared to foul Hunt in the 18-yard box, but referee Mike McCurry waved away their claims to the disgust of manager Craig Levein.
Novo should have completed his hat-trick when a quick free-kick from Dean Furman, who had replaced the injured Thomson in the 52nd minute, but him through on goal but he screwed his shot wide.
Rangers defender Christian Dailly was denied by the woodwork when his shot in the 65th minute beat Alexander but rebounded back off the post.
United looked to have pulled one back in the 71st minute when Danny Swanson's shot from 25-yards deflected off Weir, wrong-footing his goalkeeper, and found the back of the net.
Inexplicably, however, referee McCurry ruled the goal out for offside.
In the 76th minute the visitors did pull one back when De Vries directed a header into the corner of the net from 12-yards.
But Rangers completed the victory in injury time when Barry Ferguson squared for substitute Darcheville who confidently sent a first-time shot into the corner of the net.
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