Clubs with an honours list shorter than Barry Bannan standing in a hole would have watched the Ibrox club's stumble from grace over the past few months and wondered whether it might just present them with an unlikely opportunity to finally land some silverware.
After all, if one of the two biggest clubs in the country were to be reduced to the role of fellow also-rans then surely the prospect of the others would be vastly enhanced as a result. Based on Rangers' performance the other night, however, that now seems like wishful thinking. For now anyway.
The other teams certainly could do with something going in their favour. In recent years, the chances of someone other than one of the Old Firm winning either of the cup competitions have been slimmer than a supermodel who has just been run over by a steamroller. If you were one of the other clubs you usually had to hope that somehow one (or ideally both) of the Glasgow pair were knocked out early in the tournament just to create a vacancy in the final. Then you had to pray that either Celtic or Rangers had an off-day in the final or that you were up against a fellow diddy club to give yourself a fighting chance. Scenarios A and B both materialised this year; before that were as rare as an X Factor contestant with a sense of decorum.
When Kilmarnock defeated Celtic to lift the Scottish Communities League Cup (it just rolls off the tongue) back in March it was the first time since 1994 that one of the Old Firm had lost in the final to someone other than their nemesis across the city. It's a similar story in the Scottish Cup, Hearts' defeat of Rangers in 1998 the last time one of the Glasgow clubs faced up to the one of the rest and somehow slipped up.
The other finals have gone one of two ways: Rangers or Celtic hand out a heavy beating, or play poorly but still find a way to win. The latter often stings more. My memory of the 2010 League Cup final is somewhat hazy (a liquid breakfast tends to have that effect) but I can still recall the moment when Rangers went down to nine men and thinking that, surely, there was no way St Mirren could blow it from here. Of course they could. And they did. To paraphrase from John Cleese's character in Clockwise, it's not the despair, it's the hope that kills you.
The taxi driver that collected our stunned quintet heading home from Hampden that day tried to brighten the gloom with a joke. "I guess you could say that was the football equivalent of 9/11," he chuckled in reference to St Mirren's numerical advantage in the second half. Needless to say he didn't get a tip.
If there is a flip side to the long list of close-run things and sob stories, it is that the successes, when they arrive, tend to be cherished forever. While supporters of Celtic and Rangers have seen their teams lift so many trophies that they presumably start to merge into one, for the rest they can often turn out to be genuine once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The St Mirren team of 1987, Motherwell's heroes from 1991, the Raith side that shocked Celtic in 1994, Livingston a decade later, and even the Kilmarnock team from this year became instant legends the moment they defied the odds to lift silverware. Dieter Van Tornhout spent less than six months as a Kilmarnock player earlier this year but will always be remembered as the man whose winning goal brought a trophy back to Rugby Park for the first time in 15 years. This is what it means to clubs like that, the years of supporting your team through thin and thinner all made worthwhile by one glorious cup run and then a final to remember.
A new book, Scottish Football – it's not all about the Old Firm, records all these moments for posterity. It starts with the New Firm of Dundee United and Aberdeen's domestic dominance of the early 1980s but it is in the cups, however, where all recent triumphs have taken place. The book covers them all, reminiscing with the heroes who made it happen.
Publication of the book was delayed due to Kilmarnock's success, and then an additional chapter was tacked on when Hearts beat Hibs in this year's Scottish Cup final. What chance further updates in the years ahead?
Rangers' win over Motherwell suggests reports of their demise may have been premature but the other clubs will still, on occasion, have their moments. For selfish reasons, I hope it's St Mirren's turn again soon. Goodness knows we've waited long enough.
n Scottish Football – it's not all about the Old Firm, by Scott Burns, Pitch Publishing, £12.99
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