Dundee Utd 0 Rangers 3
Rangers’ long wait for the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title finally came to an end when they were crowned Scottish champions on the final day of the season.
Victory against Dundee United was required to end Celtic’s quest for a fourth successive championship and Walter Smith’s men duly obliged with goals from Kyle Lafferty, Pedro Mendes and Kris Boyd.
At times success had looked unlikely – defeat at St Mirren, falling seven points behind Celtic at the turn of the year, losing to rock-bottom Inverness and experiencing a crushing draw at Hibernian.
But, for the second year in a row, the helicopter carrying the trophy headed for Tannadice and, this time, it was Rangers who were celebrating after falling at the final hurdle and surrendering to their bitter rivals 12 months ago.
For United – this game marked their centenary – there was double despair as they were pipped to the final European berth by Aberdeen.
This was the fourth time in seven years the title was decided on the last day and, well aware their previous win at this venue was more than three years ago, Rangers were out of the traps quickly in search of an early goal.
They squandered a great opportunity after just two minutes. Steven Davis provided the cut-back from the by-line but both Boyd and Kenny Miller failed to connect eight yards out with the goal at their mercy.
However, the travelling fans were celebrating just four minutes later and Davis was the architect again, slipping a pass through to Boyd, whose attempt at a shot was stabbed into the back of the net by Lafferty.
United captain Lee Wilkie picked up the first booking for dissent following a foul on Miller soon after, before the Rangers striker volleyed over from a Davis cross.
United came close to restoring parity when David Goodwillie raced into the box before managing to unleash a shot despite the best efforts of Madjid Bougherra, but Sasa Papac made a timely block, allowing goalkeeper Neil Alexander to gather.
At the other end, Lafferty had the ball in the back of the net again but the offside flag was raised before he had even made contact with Miller’s pass.
Boyd then collected a great ball from Papac from the left flank before having a go himself but was denied by a superb headed clearance off the line by Michael Kovacevic.
But goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska – Celtic-bound next term – was plucking the ball out of the back of the net again on the stroke of half-time when Rangers earned a free-kick on the edge of the box when Maurice Edu was fouled by Dods.
Papac’s set-piece was blocked but fell to the feet of Mendes, who took a touch before rifling a blistering left-footed shot past the helpless United goalkeeper from 25 yards.
Rangers were clearly boosted by that goal and added to their lead seven minutes after the restart to shatter any hopes United had of a comeback.
Steven Whittaker embarked on a run down the right flank before delivering a low pass to the feet of Boyd who gratefully lashed home from the edge of the six-yard box to claim his 31st goal of the season.
United immediately made a double change with Garry Kenneth and Francisco Sandaza thrown into the action in place of Wilkie and David Robertson. Boyd was then withdrawn to a standing ovation from the Rangers fans and replaced by Nacho Novo.
With less than 20 minutes to go, deposed captain Barry Ferguson was introduced in place of Miller to the delight of the already delirious Rangers fans in what could yet be his final game for the club.
Novo then wasted a decent opportunity to wrap up the win in style when he burst through on goal one-on-one with Zaluska only to see his point-blank effort blocked by the goalkeeper.
But nothing could ruin the party which was already under way in the away sections of the ground, as the sound of the helicopter arriving in Tayside to deliver the trophy was met with more cheers.