The failure to take any one of a number of chances to add to their lead in the opening period, then trying to close the game out only to allow Airdrieonians a foothold in attack, made for a fraught closing 10 minutes. It did not end with the final whistle, since Bilel Mohsni was shown a second yellow card in the referee's room after a series of altercations on his way off the pitch.
Mohsni had been in an erratic mood throughout the game. He tended to react with histrionics when he felt he had been fouled - he was booked in the second-half for squaring up to Jim Lister after feeling that the Airdrie centre-forward had deliberately barged into him off the ball - and another flashpoint with Willie McLaren ended with the Rangers defender being escorted from the field after the final whistle by his team-mate Sebastien Faure, as he argued with several Airdrie players and Gary Bollan,the Airdrie manager.
Mohsni will be suspended for Rangers' trip to Stranraer on Sunday, as will Ian Black, who received his sixth booking of the season during the game. Airdrie were aggressive throughout, although never reckless or violent, but Rangers contributed to their own unease because they left the scoreline open to an Airdrie fightback. The latter seemed unlikely for most of the game, since the home side were poor in possession, but it ought to have been more convincing for the league leaders since they were playing the side bottom of League 1.
"In the last five or 10 minutes, Airdrie put us under pressure," said Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager. "But I thought my team deserved to win the game. If we shouldn't have been out of sight, we should have been in a more comfortable position after an hour or so. When you don't do that, you run the risk of the opposition getting people forward and throwing caution to the wind in the closing stages. But it's a deserved three points."
Rangers were immediately assertive. Having been beaten 6-0 on the Ibrox side's last visit, the hosts were inevitably intent on restricting them, and seeking to physically unsettle them considering the aggressiveness of some of the tackling, but they were overcome in the opening stages. Rangers played high up the pitch and were effective on both flanks, so that the home side were always on the retreat. Even when Airdrie were in possession, they were so wasteful with their passing that Rangers often regained the ball in dangerous areas.
They were particularly menacing down the left, where Lee Wallace showed his intent early on with a dart to the byline then a cutback that delivered the ball to Fraser Aird. The winger saw his shot cannon off an Airdrie defender, but the purpose and the detail of the move - Wallace exchanged first-time passes with Lewis Macleod in the build up, and the midfielder was sharp and excellent throughout - emphasised the extent of Airdrie's difficulties.
Even so, they were also prepared to seek a more pragmatic approach. One long ball upfield allowed Jon Daly to flick the ball on to Macleod, who struck a fine low shot beyond the reach of Danny Rogers and into the corner of the net. The goal ought to have heralded an onslaught, but while the visitors created a number of chances before half-time, they spurned them.
Wallace volleyed wide after deftly flicking the ball over his marker and creating an opportunity to shoot with his weaker foot. Macleod then shot just over from the edge of the penalty area, and Daly's header at the back post dropped wide. Rangers became more tense as the game progressed, though, since they kept failing to add to their lead.
Daly had one header saved after the break, and another one skimmed the bar, while Macleod volleyed wide after the ball bounced up at a nice height for him 20 yards from goal, but there was always the danger that Airdrie, however limited they had been in attack, could still force an equaliser.
Gregor Buchanan caused anxiety for the visitors when he hooked a shot over his shoulder from a free-kick sent deep into the Rangers penalty area, but the effort flew wide. It was McLaren who came closest to equalising, though, only for Cammy Bell's diving save to deny him. It prompted a scramble in the Rangers penalty area and a sudden surge of belief in the home side.
"We created chances, which we haven't done in the past against Rangers," said Bollan. "We had a couple of extremely close ones. We nearly salvaged something. We probably deserved a draw."