MOTHERWELL, Scotland (AFP) - Motherwell handed Celtic the initiative in the Scottish Premier League title race after holding Rangers to a 1-1 draw at Fir Park on Saturday.
Although the Ibrox side had taken the lead through Christian Daily in the first half, Chris Porter equalised in the second half to add to the Gers woes after their UEFA Cup final loss on Wednesday.
And the result means Celtic will almost certainly win their third title in a row if they defeat Dundee United at Tannadice on Thursday.
Rangers are now three points behind their Old Firm rivals and, although they have a game-in-hand away to St Mirren on Monday night, the Parkhead side are seven goals better off.
Walter Smith thought his side should have killed Motherwell off after taking the lead, but he was not ready to throw in the towel yet in the title race.
The Rangers manager said: "We started the game really well and deserved to be in front at half time.
"At the start of the second half Daniel Cousin had a great chance to score a second and kill the game.
"If we had went two ahead I think it would have been very hard for Motherwell to motivate themselves to get back into it.
"Instead, Motherwell got a lift from that and scored soon after.
"But the league isn't over yet and there is still a lot of football to be played."
Before the game there had been a minute's applause in respect of Celtic legend Tommy Burns - who had died, aged 51, on Thursday morning from skin cancer - and the players also wore black armbands.
Having achieved their aim of finishing third in the SPL the previous weekend, Motherwell had nothing to play for and as expected Rangers dominated early proceedings.
Nacho Novo had the first real chance of the match in the 21st minute.
Rangers captain Barry Ferguson's pass split the Motherwell defence but the Spaniard's shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide.
Daniel Cousin tested the home side's goalkeeper in the 24th minute with a powerful drive from 20-yards, which Graeme Smith did well to save low to his right.
But in the 29th minute Rangers grabbed the goal they so desperately sought, albeit through an unlikely scorer.
Kirk Broadfoot's hopeful ball into the box from the halfway line should have been easily dealt with by the Motherwell defence but inexplicably goalkeeper Smith had decided to race from his line to try and punch clear.
Instead, Rangers' defender Dailly beat him to the ball and nodded into the empty net.
Cousin should have given Rangers breathing space in the 46th minute when he barged past Mark Reynolds to go in on goal.
However, Smith raced from his line to narrow the angle and blocked the Gabon international's shot with his legs.
And in the 49th minute Rangers were punished for this miss when Motherwell levelled.
A David Clarkson header rebounded off the post, the ball fell to Steve McGarry who sent it back across goal and Porter prodded home from close range.
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee was happy with the result but angry with his players' first half display.
He said: "We might not have anything to play for but our fans expect us to try and we were diabolical in the first half.
"I gave them a real roasting at half-time and we were much better in the second half.
"To finish third and qualify for the UEFA Cup is a great achievement after we were nearly relegated last season."
|Moyes: No loan offers for Zaha|
|Kiessling calls for Leverkusen response|
|Matuidi: Cavani on par with Ibrahimovic|
|Yeboah set to join Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Rooney a ´chance´ to face West Ham|
|FIFA Club World Cup Preview: Bayern Munich v Raja Casablanca|
|Benzarti praises ´extremely talented´ Raja Casablanca|
|Ranieri unsure over Falcao return|
|Coupe de La Ligue Wrap: Cavani leads PSG to dramatic win|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Real Madrid through as Sevilla crash out|
|Tottenham job appeals to Sherwood|
|Sherwood gutted after defeat|
|Hughes: United worthy winners|
|Moyes pleased to see United weather storm|
|Allardyce hails West Ham fight|
|Coppa Italia: Juventus 3 Avellino 0|
|Manchester clubs kept apart in League Cup semi draw|
|League Cup: Tottenham 1 West Ham 2|
|League Cup: Stoke City 0 Manchester United 2|
|FIFA Club World Cup: Raja Casablanca 3 Atletico Mineiro 1|
|Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan abandoned due to heavy rain|
|United face anxious Rooney wait over injury|
|Messi making good progress|
|Ramos ban overturned|
|Osvaldo charged by FA|
|In-demand Ince offered new Blackpool deal|
|Molde confirm Solskjaer approaches|
|Kramer keen to continue home record|
|Rodgers: Henderson has potential to get even better|
|Ruiz on Anderlecht´s radar|
|Swansea, Hull fined by FA over player behaviour|
|Leeds keen on re-signing Gradel|
|Leverkusen announce Ryu deal|
|Ribery named Bundesliga Player of the Year|
|Moyes: No Zaha interest|
|Barcelona, Real Madrid in European Commission investigation|
|Basel: No Tottenham approach for Yakin|
|Chelsea set for Guarin bid, agent claims|
|Lewandowski has Dortmund goal concerns|
|Pogba, Pirlo will not sign before Christmas, says Marotta|
|Guardiola convinced to join Bayern after ´meat´ and greet|
|Martinez: Everton seen as a ´perfect´ loan destination|
|Anderlecht ´perfect´ for Defour, says Van Holsbeeck|
|Watford appoint Sannino|
|Sakho feels ´lucky´ to play with Suarez|
|Lippi: Too many teams competing in Club World Cup|
|Moyes ´told Welbeck to learn from Rooney´|
|I would kill myself over match-fixing, says Gattuso|
|Hughes dismisses calls for Januzaj protection|
|Aguero ´could miss up to two months´|
|Guardiola lauds Ballon d´Or nominee Ribery|
|Liverpool open Suarez contract talks|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Barcelona, Levante cruise through|
|A-League Preview: Derby date beckons for winless Heart|
|Pearson upbeat despite Leicester defeat|
|Poyet urges Sunderland to build on Chelsea win|
|Mourinho rues missed chances|
|Pellegrini proud of professional Manchester City|
|Bayern on another level, says Beckenbauer|
|League Cup: Sunderland 2 Chelsea 1 (aet)|
|League Cup: Leicester City 1 Manchester City 3|
|FIFA Club World Cup: Guangzhou Evergrande 0 Bayern Munich 3|
|Zenit and Olympiacos punished with partial stadium closures|
|Sherwood wants positive reaction|
|Ancelotti expected La Liga title fight|
|Moffat charged over betting allegations|
|Wilson appointed at Barnsley|
|Wilshere charged by FA|
|Gattuso determined to clear his name|
|Moyes slams sacking culture|
|Mackay refuses to resign despite owner criticism|
|Redknapp reluctant to take Taarabt back|
|Amat pleased with development|
|Hughes optimistic of League Cup progression|
|Perez: No bids for Di Maria|
|FIFPro demand transfer system overhaul|
|Edwards sacked by Perth Glory|
|Allardyce not fearing the sack|
|Howson commits to Norwich|
|Tevez resigned to Argentina snub|
|SFA uphold Butcher´s one-match ban|
|Zapata rules out United switch|
|European Ombudsman calls for action on Spanish tax complaint|
|Albrighton eyes new Villa deal|
|Bale to miss Copa del Rey clash with ´small injury´|
|Pardew will bide his time in January|
|Kreuzer confident of Hamburg improvement|
|Van der Sar: Moyes can turn United around|
|Maradona backs Ronaldo for Ballon d´Or|
|Tottenham warned off Klinsmann|
|Costa Rica Primera Division: Alajuelense 0 Herediano 0|
|Lyon wary of Chornomorets Odesa|
|Guardiola talks up Lippi, Evergrande|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Chile, Deportes Iquique reach final|
|Garcia laments defensive mistakes|
|La Liga: Real Valladolid 3 Celta Vigo 0|