Steven Gerrard said Rangers could handle the pressure of Celtic’s five-point gap - and they did.

But it was Hibs ’ inability to handle themselves either on or off the park which sparked another Easter Road horror show.

The Ibrox side closed the gap on Celtic at the top back to two points with a cruise of a 3-0 win, first half goals from Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo and a clincher from Jermain Defoe after the break easing them home.

But the bad blood which beset the fixture back in March resurfaced again with Ryan Porteous red carded, five more Hibs yellows, Hibs assistant John Potter and Rangers coach Tom Culshaw also red carded and more objects thrown from the stand as the game boiled over after the break.

Rangers arrived on the back of a run of just one win in their last six visits to Easter Road, three in their last 11 - it hasn't been a happy hunting ground for them.

And without their suspended 27-goal talisman Alfredo Morelos , they’d have been entitled to at least some apprehension. 

If they had any, however, it was gone inside eight killer minutes with two stunning finishes.

The first may have been a self-inflicted wound from Hibs, keeper Ofir Marciano taking a split second too long to clear and being shut down by Joe Aribo, but the calibre of Kent’s strike from the 18-yard line was something special.

It would have been hard enough to just control the ball as it squirted towards him but he had the confidence and control to smash it home first time. Empty net or not, it was all technique.

Arguably though, it was trumped within four minutes by Aribo. The 23-year-old worked two separate one-twos with Ryan Jack down the right before the midfield anchor slipped him in, and the way the former Charlton playmaker opened his body to receive the ball and finish first time into the far corner with his left foot was absolute class.

Hibs looked devastated - in between the two goals, Flo Kamberi and Scott Allan has both had decent efforts to revive the game, but at two down they were as good as done.

Rangers’ pressure was causing them serious ball-retention problems in their own half, and despite a couple of efforts from Stevie Mallan and Martin Boyle going wide, Hibs were right under the cosh and should have been a couple further back by the break.

Marciano pulled off a point-blank save from Aribo after a nice feed from Kent and James Tavernier should have done better with a free header from a superb Borna Barisic cross laser-guided on to his forehead from the left than nod it straight at the keeper.

Jack Ross hooked Kamberi and Mallan at the interval, bringing on Daryl Horgan and Vykintas Slivka - and the Irishman almost curled one in at the far post within 40 seconds.

They’d come out with the requisite rocket up their backsides and were finally on the front foot - but they were decked again with eight minutes.

Tavernier’s cross was cleared as far as Scott Arfield, the midfielder’s header back in was chested down beautifully by Defoe, followed by a cute dink inside and finish off the inside of the post.

But while it was the end of the scoring, it wasn't the end of the story, with more scenes   marring a fixture making an ugly name for itself in the bad blood stakes.

Ryan Porteous’ tackle on Borna Barisic was awful, a clear straight red from Nick Walsh, and as the Croatian lay on the turf getting treatment, at least one object was launched onto the pitch from the same stand where James Tavernier’s assailant came from in those scenes of shame back in March.

Walsh wasn't finished though, and after fourth official Steven McLean had called him over, the whistler showed straight reds to both Hibs No2 Potter and Gers coach Tom Culshaw for a fracas between the two dugouts.

3 Talking Points

No Morelos? No problem

Any worries about the absence of the suspended Colombian limiting Rangers’ capacity in front of goal were unfounded as they closed the points gap down to two and the goal difference gap down to one. Jermain Defoe once again proved his quality as a stand-in with his 14th of the season, coming from just 10 starts and 1 appearances off the bench, but it was the quality of their team play and pressing that earned them the win.


Ryan Porteous wild challenge

Someone needs to teach Ryan Porteous the difference between aggression and stupidity. His team mates and coaches have said it's a strength in his game but it's also his biggest weakness and it showed again tonight with a crazy red which leaves him suspended for Thursday’s derby. With a Hibs defence who have managed just a single clean sheet since the opening day of season, it’s the last thing they needed.

If there was ever a honeymoon, Jack Ross is taxi-ing down the runway for the flight home to reality.

Fan Behaviour in focus

Leeann Dempster must be getting to the end of her tether. What gets into anyone’s head that throwing anything from the stand on to the pitch is acceptable behaviour should be beyond most people with any semblance of a brain yet there it was a couple of times again tonight from the same stand that saw an idiot jailed last season for his confrontation with James Tavernier. They’re not helping their club. Nor, mind you, are the Rangers fans who think defiance is starting up with the ‘Fenian b******’ songbook afterwards.