THERE is an irony in the fact that Rangers are hitting top form on the run-in just as games are about to run out on them. Since losing to Celtic at Parkhead last month to all but mathematically concede the title, Steven Gerrard’s side have now scored three goals in each of three back-to-back wins, the last two of which been secured without the services of the suspended Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent.

No matter how Neil Lennon’s side fare today, it is enough to keep Celtic’s title celebrations on ice for another weekend, even if all this is surely little more than delaying the inevitable. Such details didn’t stop their fans lapping up this victory, which was essentially wrapped up within 50 sun-kissed minutes. Not so the home fans, a number of whom began trooping out of the ground, presumably back into the watering holes of Gorgie, as soon as Rangers’ third goal of the day, scored by Nikola Katic, hit the back of the net. While substitute Steven MacLean got one back with a lunging header from a Bobby Burns cross, it was all a little too late for a Hearts side who do at least have the Scottish Cup final to look forward to.

What do Rangers fans have to look forward to? Well, if chairman Dave King’s recent claim that the club are within ‘touching distance’ of becoming the dominant side in Scotland seemed like overstating the case, the last few matches have at least provided a partial blueprint in how to succeed even if their two most prized assets around next season.

Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis, two men who did anything but convince upon their arrival at the club in January, show increasing signs of adjusting to the demands of the Scottish Premiership circa 2019. A narrow 4-3-3 shape, which allows Davis to drop deep to help the centre halves knit possession together and allows Scott Arfield to get close to Defoe, seems tailor-made to get the best out of both players.

But more than that, in the week the club were visited by Ant Middleton, the SAS officer turned host of SAS: Who Dares Wins, there was a pack mentality about the way Rangers hunted the ball down high up the park. Hearts, who like to bully other teams about on their own patch, were hounded.

Ann Budge was true to her word, closing off the section of the stand where so many supporter problems seem to originate. But Hearts’ first setback came before kick off: Sean Clare succumbed to illness during the warm-up and had to be replaced by Craig Wighton. There was also a place at the back for John Souttar, subject of apparent interest from Rangers which was dismissed pre-match by Levein as “the usual crap”.

Wighton is more recognised as a striker and when he dropped in to midfield to pick up a loose ball, his marker Jon Flanagan sensed blood. Following him in, the left back won a lusty tackle, and in an instant Glenn Kamara funnelled the ball into the space for Defoe, who converted the chance like the veteran goalpoacher he is.

The hulking form of Uche Ikpeazu – who Rangers’ American debutant Matt Polster memorably described as a ‘linebacker’ - was starting to use his brawn to good effect. First, he burst past Katic only to fire wastefully over, then his flick was perfect for Wighton, who got in on goal but couldn’t hit the target. Such profligacy was instantly rued, when Ryan Jack this time robbed Oliver Bozanic, continuing his run to get on the end of a return pass from Daniel Candeias and slip in the second.

Tynecastle was not a happy place at half-time – other, that is, from among the visiting support – and the mood darkened further three minutes after the break. Caught sleeping by a Davis short corner, Candeias levered over a cross and Katic flung himself in at the far post to do the rest.

If this didn’t look like a Hearts team playing for cup final places it improved slightly when they introduced substitutes Steven MacLean and young Harry Cochrane. Bobby Burns, arguably the home side’s best player on the day despite being on the wrong end of a stamp from Defoe which earned the Englishman only a yellow card, was plugging away manfully down the left and one of his crosses was nodded in at the bottom corner by MacLean. If it was a sign of the frustration about the place that the veteran striker celebrated the moment in a manner which suggested he was giving a bit of stick back at his own supporters, he insisted the gesture was aimed at his dad Gus.

“I was just wound up after my goal,” said MacLean. “My old man has been giving me a bit of stick, saying I need to get back on the scoresheet. My Dad was sat up in the Wheatfield Stand with his mate, watching me. It was him I was looking at as I celebrated. It was just a bit of frustration on my part as well. I want to get back among the goals and back playing as well, so it’s important I take my opportunities when they do come around. I’ll probably get it a bit tight from him in the car on the way home now!”

Polster, picked up during January from Chicago Fire, finally made his debut, to chants of 'USA, USA' from the away support. "It kicked the nerves a little bit," he said. "The support is massive here. Coming to a new club, a new country and a new team, I was nervous to get on the pitch but once they started chanting that it made me smile."