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."
|Emery bids farewell to Sevilla|
|Messi will pick himself up from Argentina woe - Pique|
|Vrsaljko´s Atletico move set to be confirmed|
|Berardi wants game time - Di Francesco|
|Giaccherini hails Conte: We prepared for tiniest details|
|Shearer puts his hand up for England job|
|Juventus ´hard to beat´ because of finances - Napoli president|
|Nainggolan ´very happy´ at Roma amid Chelsea links|
|Maradona calls on Messi to continue with Argentina|
|Europe ´vastly underrated´ Italy - Buffon|
|Iniesta: Spain were too focused on Italy|
|Spain not up to required level - Pique|
|Hallgrimsson: Quick equaliser rocked England|
|Rooney intends to continue with England|
|Apologetic Hart ´devastated´ by Iceland defeat|
|Hodgson had to go after humiliating England exit|
|´It is embarrassing to go out´ - Rooney|
|Lagerback lauds Hodgson after Iceland stun England|
|England pathetic and disgraceful - the world reacts to Hodgson departure|
|Roy Hodgson´s England career in numbers|
|Hodgson resigns: Five contenders to replace him as England boss|
|Chiellini delighted to end Italy´s Spain pain|
|Alderweireld wary of Wales and Bale|
|Euro 2016 Diary: A lost child, a football ban in Nice and one last stand for Will Grigg|
|Sigurdsson: England thought it would be a walk in the park|
|Bonucci hails ´master´ Conte|
|Hodgson resigns following Euro 2016 exit|
|England 1 Iceland 2: Fairytale continues as Hodgson´s men crash out|
|Sevilla confirm Sampaoli appointment|
|Del Bosque: I am not quitting - yet|
|Conte eyes second Italy stint after downing Spain|
|Conte masterclass marks end of an era for Spain|
|Italy 2 Spain 0: Chiellini and Pelle send holders crashing out|
|Substance over style for Portugal´s Fonte|
|Robinson agrees one-year deal at Burnley|
|FFP could hold up Toure switch to Inter, claims agent|
|Dani Alves completes Juventus move|
|Coleman confident Williams will be fit to face Belgium|
|Iordanescu to leave Romania post|
|Messi decision sad – Griezmann|
|Blanc wishes PSG successor luck|
|No goals or assists in Argentina finals: The best stats from Messi´s international career|
|Eleven trophies and records galore: The best stats from Blanc´s PSG reign|
|Griezmann at home in the centre|
|Forest appoint Montanier|
|Manchester United to get Mkhitaryan answer this week|
|Raffael extends contract with Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Mane closes in on Liverpool move|
|Blanc departs PSG with Emery waiting in the wings|
|O´Neill hopeful of Republic of Ireland stay|
|Lewandowski does not faze Fonte|
|Wales better as underdogs – Coleman|
|Beckenbauer would prefer Germany to play Spain, not Italy|
|Messi retirement highlights implosion of Argentinian football|
|Bravo: I hope Messi continues playing for Argentina|
|Aguero: Messi not the only player considering retirement|
|I think Messi is just upset, Romero says after captain announces retirement|
|Aguero: This is the worst I have seen Messi|
|Messi set to retire from international football|
|Sanchez: This is the best thing to happen to me|
|Martino: Argentina deserved to beat Chile in final|
|Vidal: This Chile generation is to stand|
|Sanchez crowned Copa´s best as champions Chile sweep awards|
|Argentina 0 Chile 0 (aet, 2-4 on penalties): Defending champs sink Messi and Co. again|
|Taylor ready for Belgium test|
|Portland Timbers 3 Houston Dynamo 2: Valeri late show seals win|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Love blossoms in Paris and last orders for Ireland as Hallgrimsson baits England|
|De Bruyne, Belgium target Euro 2016 final|
|Wilmots: Hazard does his talking with his feet|
|Storck enthusiastic about Hungary future|
|My best Belgium performance - Hazard|
|´It took him long enough!´ - Schweinsteiger hails Boateng´s first Germany goal|
|Courtois: Hungary made an error by coming to play|
|No back-three fears for Spain boss Del Bosque|
|Grigg fired by Euro bench duty|
|Davis: Stranger things have happened than O´Neill to Southampton|
|Gunnarsson insists Iceland do not fear England|
|Brilliant Hazard inspires Belgium´s golden boys|
|Student Morata wants to bring down Juventus masters with Spain|
|Hungary 0 Belgium 4: Hazard inspires Wilmots´ men into quarter-finals|
|Conte demands extraordinary Italy to topple Spain|
|Nolito: No contact with Barca or Man City|
|Alves jets into Turin for Juve medical|
|Low: No sleepless nights over Italy or Spain|
|Kozak: Germany had too much quality|
|Fury gets in the spirit with England fans in Nice|
|Draxler shares the plaudits as Germany move through|
|O´Shea not drawn on Ireland future|
|Rami: France were scared of going out|
|Germany 3 Slovakia 0: Spain or Italy await for world champions after comprehensive win|
|Brilliant Boateng gets Germany juggernaut motoring|
|Lagerback hopes England´s attacking struggles will continue|
|Juventus, Napoli and Roma ´all interested in De Sciglio´|
|O´Neill hails coming of age for Ireland´s youngsters|
|England will not disrespect Iceland, says Rooney|
|Deschamps stands firm on team changes|
|Hodgson adamant he is happy with England strikers|
|Evra: We knew it would be difficult|
|Deschamps: We had to dig deep|
|Rooney: Do not question Sterling´s attitude|
|O´Neill: France´s extra rest took its toll|
|France star Payet: It is difficult to stop us|
|Griezmann: Stern words led to second-half fightback|
|Coleman: We felt it was there for us|
|Deschamps defies doubters as France heed call to arms|
|Konko ´in talks´ to join AC Milan|
|Sigurdsson looking forward to dream England clash|
|Cacic: Croatia´s time will come|
|Italy v Spain will be different to Euro 2012 final - Camoranesi|
|France 2 Republic of Ireland 1: Griezmann double rescues hosts|
|Capello: Spain are pure magic|
|Wolfsburg complete Bruma signing|
|Koke: Spain need to bring back ´The Red Fury´|
|Pizzi: Chile can beat Messi and Argentina|
|Schalke swoop for Swiss star Embolo|
|Subotic signals intention to leave Dortmund|
|Howedes eager for France showdown|
|Russia confirm Slutsky resignation|
|Pirlo: Italy out for Spain revenge|
|Vokes consoles McAuley after Wales march on|
|Italy-Spain a battle of world´s best - Llorente|
|Messi one win away from becoming the greatest|
|Play-offs the goal as Baptista settles into life in Orlando|
|Colombia closer to winning titles - Pekerman|
|MLS Review: Kaka scores 100th-minute penalty in thriller, Lampard inspires NYC|
|Portugal ´don´t have a clue how they scored´ – Rakitic|
|Klinsmann: USA should be proud of Copa America display|
|United States 0 Colombia 1: Bacca secures third place at Copa America|
|Corluka: Portugal among worst teams at Euro 2016|
|Sanches happy to be involved as Portugal reach quarters|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Shaqiri rivals Pique for Shakira´s affection, Bale reveals secret weapon|
|Morata: I have nothing to prove to Zidane|
|Di Maria fit for Copa final|
|´You do not always win by playing prettily´ - Santos unconcerned by dour Portugal|
|The best team lost, says disconsolate Cacic|
|Fabianski: Poland must create more for Lewandowski|
|McAuley pride after crushing Wales loss|