Dundee 1 Rangers 3
Rangers put their off-field problems to one side to book their place in the semi-finals of the Co-operative Insurance Cup and provide their frustrated fans with some much-needed cheer.
Last year’s finalists started well when they took an early lead through Steven Whittaker before Dundee – second only to Celtic in terms of their spending over the summer – responded in style when the impressive Leigh Griffiths claimed his 12th goal of the season.
But the Irn-Bru First Division leaders were denied their place in the last four of the competition when Gary MacKenzie nodded into his own net before John Fleck put the gloss on the victory with a late strike.
Walter Smith and his players were no doubt grateful for the opportunity to focus on the game after several days of headlines sparked by the manager’s claims that the bank was now controlling spending.
Smith sprung a few surprises when he named his team. Danny Wilson made his competitive debut as expected but there was also a maiden outing for fellow youngster Jordan McMillan and a first appearance of the season for DaMarcus Beasley.
Kevin Thomson was a surprise inclusion in midfield after recovering from a shoulder injury while Neil Alexander was given the gloves ahead of Allan McGregor.
Kyle Lafferty and Nacho Novo started up front, with Kris Boyd on the bench despite his goal against Hibernian at the weekend.
Dundee made two changes with Gary Harkins recovering from an ankle injury to start along with Sean Higgins, with Colin McMenamin on the bench and Maros Klimpl absent from the squad.
The home side started brightly without causing any real problems and it was Rangers who had the first real chance when Novo was fouled just outside the box.
Thomson stepped up for the free-kick, which he rifled against the Dundee wall, before Fleck blasted the rebound well over the crossbar.
The teenager then turned provider with a corner which was met by Whittaker at the near post but he stabbed wide when it looked easier to find the net.
However, Whittaker was celebrating with 15 minutes gone.
Again Fleck delivered a teasing corner into the box and this time the full-back connected with a header beyond helpless Dundee goalkeeper Tony Bullock.
Dundee fans screamed for a penalty when Craig Forsyth went to ground after Alexander raced from his line to clear but the pleas were ignored by referee Dougie McDonald.
But the Dark Blues were celebrating with 29 minutes on the clock anyway when Harkins was fouled just outside the area by McMillan and Griffiths stepped up to send a superb curling effort past the Rangers goalkeeper.
Alexander was then called into action to block a stinging shot from Griffiths at the near post, with the striker narrowly denied his second of the night.
Dundee looked more likely to find the back of the net again as they laid siege to the Rangers goal after the restart.
Harkins tried to pick out Griffiths in front of goal but he failed to connect with the cross amid claims of a shove from Rangers’ captain Sasa Papac.
Paul McHale then nodded over from the resulting free-kick before Eric Paton fired over and Griffiths drew a decent save from Alexander as the Taysiders cranked up the pressure.
But Dundee were left rueing those missed opportunities when Rangers reclaimed their lead after 57 minutes.
Beasley sprayed a pass out to Whittaker on the right and his ball into the box caused all sorts of problems for MacKenzie, who inadvertently nodded into the back of his own net.
Rangers could have put the tie beyond doubt when Thomson rolled a short free-kick to Novo only for the Spaniard to lash narrowly over the crossbar from 25 yards out.
Fleck did seal the win with five minutes to go however, slotting past Bullock after Novo did all the hard work with a lovely run before unselfishly cutting the ball back.