A tumultuous year for Rangers was never likely to end smoothly.

The team was reduced to desperation by the time Fraser Aird scored the winning goal with a strike in the 91st minute that separated these two sides into relief and despair. Queen's Park had been valiant, particularly after being reduced to 10 men, but Rangers found a way to win their final fixture of 2012, a goal which reflects the survival instincts of the club itself.

Aird struck from the edge of the penalty area at a time when exhaustion prevented the Queen's Park players from closing him down as urgently as they had done throughout. Much of the home side's defending had been determined and courageous, with the centre-back Ricky Little performing dominantly.

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He lost his defensive partner, James Brough, midway through the second-half, when the centre-back body checked David Templeton after the attacker nutmegged him. Brough was shown his second yellow card of the game, but still Queen's refused to wilt. That spirit revived them, but it was also evident in Rangers' display, since the visitors refused to accept that the victory was beyond them.

McCoist's side were ragged and careless at times, then in the closing stages they lost their organisational discipline, leaving themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks. If Lawrence Shankland had been more composed following a breakaway, he might have secured a famous victory himself, but he skewed his effort wide and instead it was Aird who took the glory of this game.

"It was a relief," admitted McCoist. "We lost our shape a couple of times late on in pursuit of a goal, which is inexcusable. It was a goal worthy of winning any game. You'd need to be a cruel man not to have any sympathy for the opposition after that. Gardner Speirs' teams give him everything, they were really well organised."

The fixture was treated as a momentous occasion. Tickets bore the slogan "Passport to the oldest derby in world football", while Sir Alex Ferguson granted a rare interview to Sky Sports ahead of the game. The Manchester United manager represented both sides during his playing career, and the sense of history around the fixture was meant to be celebrated.

It might have been chastening for Rangers, though, since their last visit to Hampden was in March 2011, when they defeated Celtic in the League Cup final. That was an elite side, with the likes of David Weir, Steven Davis and Nikica Jelavic contributing to the victory, the latter scoring the decisive goal in extra-time.

"I probably celebrated the Aird goal as much as I did that one, because it was a really hard fought three points," McCoist said. "It shows you how far we've got to get back to. The boys representing the team now can play better, but they kept going."

Spiders' manager Speirs said: "We defended by the skin of our teeth when we had to. Neil Parry made a number of excellent saves and with a bit more composure we might have scored. There was inconsistency in the decisions, but that's not why we lost."

In the end, Rangers won it with a piece of individual accomplishment. The goal prompted a brief burst of The Billy Boys, but otherwise the 28,000-strong away support was another expression of the faith and loyalty that carried Rangers through a difficult year.