Rangers are just six wins away from clinching the Scottish Premiership title after Ianis Hagi’s fine strike secured a routine victory over St Johnstone at Ibrox.
The Romanian winger drove in from the right to fire home early in the second-half, breaking the visitors’ stout resistance.
The league leaders – who were fortunate not to have Kemar Roofe sent off before the break – are still unbeaten and now sit 23 points clear of Celtic.
Steven Gerrard’s side could yet clinch the trophy at the home of their fiercest rivals when they cross the city on 20 March, provided both sides win all of their games in the meantime.
Rangers were not at their fluid best at Ibrox against a St Johnstone side with a well-earned reputation for being difficult to break down in their 3-5-2 formation, and Callum Davidson’s side gave a decent account of themselves again.
But even still, they could have been a couple of goals to the good at half-time after Ryan Kent and Connor Goldson spurned good opportunities from inside the box.
Kent did brilliantly to pick up Joe Aribo’s knockdown and work an opening, but fired wide with the corner of the net gaping, while Goldson did the same from James Tavernier’s free-kick.
And while they ought to have been a few goals up, Rangers should also have been a man down after Roofe planted his studs onto Murray Davidson’s ankle, eventually causing the St Johnstone midfielder to limp off.
Given Rangers’ imperious form and miserly defence, playing with 10 men for an hour may not have fazed them, but St Johnstone will still feel aggrieved at the decision, particularly if the influential Davidson faces a long spell out.
Instead, the early pattern of the game continued as Rangers probed for the opener, which eventually came through the brilliance of Hagi.
The winger picked up the ball on the right and skipped past a wall of St Johnstone defenders to squeeze the ball into the corner of the net.
From there the result was never in doubt, with Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor called into action just once as he pushed Craig Bryson’s shot clear.
The Premiership procession rolls on.
Man of the match – Ianis Hagi
What did we learn?
Rangers have not been at their brilliant best for a while, but the difference this season compared to last, is that they don’t have to be to comfortably rack up victories. It is perhaps inevitable that the intensity drops slightly when the rest of the league is in your rear-view mirror.
Another cornerstone of their imperious season has been the ability of different players to step up at different times, and this time it was Hagi’s time to shine. His fine strike got the job done, and that is all Rangers need to do for the next six games in order to have the Premiership title back at Ibrox.
St Johnstone, meanwhile, gave another decent defensive display with a few flourishes in attack. They remain eighth, just four points above the relegation play-off place, but there will be few who think they will be in serious trouble come May.
Although they will of course have hoped for more, coming away from Ibrox with just a narrow defeat is better than most these days.
What they said
Rangers assistant manager Gary MacAllister: “It was tough but I thought we edged it and it was a special goal to separate the two teams. I thought the referee had a good view of the [Roofe] situation and knowing the type of player that he is, I think the referee saw it as a yellow.”
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “It’s one of those, I don’t think there was any malice in the challenge, but it doesn’t look great. TV pictures will slow it down and make it look worse than it is. All I can do is credit my players.”
Rangers are away to bottom side Hamilton Academical on Sunday (12:00 GMT), while St Johnstone will aim to be the first side to beat David Martindale’s Livingston the day before (15:00 GMT).
- 7HagiSubstituted forKamaraat 81′minutes
- 25RoofeBooked at 21minsSubstituted forIttenat 66′minutes
- 2BrownSubstituted forRooneyat 66′minutes
- 8DavidsonSubstituted forCraigat 36′minutes
- 7ConwaySubstituted forMelamedat 81′minutes
- 14MaySubstituted forKaneat 66′minutesBooked at 85mins
- David Munro
Match ends, Rangers 1, St. Johnstone 0.
Second Half ends, Rangers 1, St. Johnstone 0.
Filip Helander (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Liam Gordon (St. Johnstone).
Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by James Tavernier.
Christopher Kane (St. Johnstone) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Steven Davis (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Christopher Kane (St. Johnstone).
Foul by Cedric Itten (Rangers).
Jason Kerr (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, St. Johnstone. Guy Melamed replaces Craig Conway.
Substitution, Rangers. Glen Kamara replaces Ianis Hagi.
Ianis Hagi (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Scott Tanser (St. Johnstone).
Cedric Itten (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Shaun Rooney (St. Johnstone).
Foul by Ianis Hagi (Rangers).
Scott Tanser (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Steven Davis (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christopher Kane (St. Johnstone).