A rendition of God Save The Queen became half-hearted as the game was played out, but the objective of reviving the spirit of Rangers, of expressing defiance, had been lost by then. The occasion had an edge, but at times it delivered only a self-inflicted harm.
Perhaps the home fans, in the circumstances of their adversity, fell back on instinct. They certainly abandoned their restraint. What arose was the kind of sentiment that the club have been working hard to eradicate. There was a rendition of Super Rangers in the first half, with a clear chant of "F***** bastards". Then the Billy Boys, a song banned by Uefa for the line, "we're up to our knees in F***** blood", was sung. After the interval, and some decisions by Iain Brines that riled the home fans, the vast majority of the stadium chanted, "Who's the F***** in the black".
The return of the old anti-Catholic intolerance was a depressing occurrence. The day was an opportunity for the Rangers fans to show their spirit, to express the devotion that would be the strongest defence against the threat of club's perilous financial state. Around kick-off, the songs had been rousing and it was possible to acknowledge that the support of the club, in its vastness and its commitment, could be a positive influence in the coming difficult weeks.
Yet what the supporters emphasised was a confusion of intent. They came to display how they might save their club, but then betrayed it. It is a time when Rangers' identity, and their own influence, can be redefined. The club is in a vulnerable state, but can still be redeemed. Religious bigotry had become a relic, but its sudden resurgence, as an emotional, almost spontaneous reaction, suggests that it still lies too close to the surface.
It jarred, because the fans had previously been so uplifting. They congregated outside the main stand ahead of the game, waiting for a chance to express their commitment. A bed sheet hung from the railings carrying the message: "Sold To A Spiv. Give Us Our Club". There was no concerted protest, but it would have been futile since matters still lie outwith the fans' reach. Only if they muster the financial clout, and so empower the Supporters Trust, can they take control of Rangers' future. Presence was obligatory, though, because it was a symbolic gesture.
Before kick-off, then as the teams came out, the noise was stirring. It felt like an outpouring, and this was the supporters' first opportunity to express themselves together since the club fell into administration. It was supposed to be a celebration, of their devotion to the team and their great expectations that a positive outcome might be reached. It was possible to cling on to that optimism, even as the game and three separate chants, undermined it.
The players looked galvanised, too, but reality has become a blatant presence in recent weeks. For all that emotion was a powerful impetus, it could not make up for the deficiencies of the team. It took only 12 minutes for Kilmarnock to breach the home side's defence, when Paul Heffernan scampered clear and crossed for Dean Shiels to convert. Suddenly, Rangers' adversity seemed entrenched.
A response was inevitable, but it did not have the means to affect Kilmarnock. Ally McCoist has diminished resources, and even the motivation of events was not enough to raise them above mediocrity. The visitors were sharp and confident in their play, which must have galled Rangers. On the verge of half-time, Sasa Papac slid into a tackle with his studs showing, prompting Brines to reach for a red card.
By then, David Healy had been flagged offside before scoring, and Lee McCulloch suffered a similar fate when his headed goal was ruled out in the second half after Mervan Celik was judged to have held on to his marker in the penalty area as the corner kick was delivered. Rangers' lack of imagination was cruelly exposed, and Kilmarnock supporters revelled in the discomfort in front of them. "There's only one Craig Whyte," they chanted.
Apart from a banner blaming Sir David Murray for Rangers' predicament, there was no such castigation from the home fans. Whyte, to them, is a figure to be scolded, but it seemed a waste of energy in his absence. He was advised not to attend, and the strength of feeling would have been a cause of distress to him. It was, still, a cathartic occasion for Rangers.
There is talk of the players taking a collective pay cut so staff do not lose their jobs. Stories abounded, too, of fans living abroad buying tickets and passing them on to relatives or former neighbours so that the ground wouldn't be empty. This resourcefulness is priceless to Rangers, and it does not deserve to be tainted by songs that should remain cast aside by a support that is better aware of its responsibilities.