Falkirk 1 Rangers 3
Kris Boyd edged closer to Henrik Larsson’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League goalscoring record when he brought his own tally to 151 to help down Falkirk.
But the Rangers striker, who now sits seven short of the Swede’s record, was denied his hat-trick when he was replaced just two minutes before the Scottish champions were handed a penalty converted instead by Kenny Miller.
Pedro Moutinho had pulled a goal back for the SPL bottom side but Walter Smith’s men held on for the win which allowed them to return to the top of the table ahead of Celtic’s clash with Aberdeen later in the day.
Madjid Bougherra was back in the Rangers first team for the first time since the Champions League defeat to Sevilla back in September, after dominating the headlines for returning late from international duty with Algeria and then having a much-publicised bust-up with team-mate Miller.
Miller was also back in the side, along with Kevin Thomson and Nacho Novo, as boss Walter Smith made four changes from the side who lost at Aberdeen last week.
Falkirk made just one change from the side who lost to Hibernian, with Pedro Pele making a first start for the club ahead of Danijel Marceta.
It was Rangers who took the lead with 17 minutes gone when Bougherra supplied a low cross for Boyd and all that was required from the prolific goalscorer was to slot home from six yards. The striker then picked up a booking for his over-exuberant celebrations.
Boyd had the chance to claim his second of the day when he ran onto a lovely pass from Miller and found himself one on one with Robert Olejnik but it was the Falkirk goalkeeper who won the battle and blasted to safety.
Lee McCulloch then came close with an angled drive which whistled across the face of goal and wide, before Novo drew a decent save from Olejnik as the Scottish champions cranked up the pressure.
Falkirk could have levelled when Scott Arfield found himself through on goal but Allan McGregor did well to block with his legs and deny the youngster the equaliser.
Instead, it was Rangers who found the back of the net again after 36 minutes. Steven Davis broke up the park before Miller collected out on the right and whipped into the path of Boyd, who lashed home from close range.
Falkirk did manage to pull a goal back four minutes before the interval when Chris Mitchell’s corner was nodded down by Pele for Moutinho to prod over the line from inside the six-yard box.
Rangers could have restored their two-goal cushion within a couple of minutes of the restart when Thomson’s free-kick found Novo at the back post but his attempts to stab home were thwarted by Olejnik, who did well to deny the Spaniard.
Bougherra then attempted to turn provider for Boyd again. The striker collected on his chest but failed to control properly and the danger was eventually cleared by Brian McLean before Boyd could pull the trigger.
Falkirk were also looking dangerous in flashes but Rangers had the chance to pile on the pressure again when substitute DaMarcus Beasley was fouled just outside the box. Thomson’s effort curled just over the crossbar.
Any hopes Boyd had of claiming his first hat-track of the season were dashed when he was replaced by Kyle Lafferty with 20 minutes to go and he would have been even more disappointed at being hooked when Rangers were awarded a penalty just two minutes later.
Beasley was brought down in the box by Darren Barr with 72 minutes on the clock and – with Boyd now on the bench – the honours went to Miller instead, who confidently dispatched into the back of the net from 12 yards.
Lafferty could then have put the result beyond all doubt only for his point-blank header to be blocked by Olejnik but Rangers held on for the points anyway.